Archives

Nonfiction November: Week 2 Lists!

Lu/Leslie at Regular Rumination asks us to Be/Become/Ask the Expert:

Share a list of titles that you have read on a particular topic, create a wish list of titles that you’d like to read about a particular topic, or ask your fellow Nonfiction November participants for suggestions on a particular topic.

Well, I have two three ongoing projects, and I’d love to have suggestions for either.

My U.S. Presidents Project is stalled at the moment, but I’d like to take it back up in January. I have a copy of David McCullough’s Truman waiting for me to get around to it. And here I have a list of presidential biographies I’d like to read. What books should I add to my list? Leave me a comment about any biographies of U.S. presidents that you’ve read and enjoyed, and please leave a link to your review, if you wrote one.

My Africa reading project is also ongoing. I was trying to focus on one are of Africa each year, but that idea fell by the wayside when I would find a book set in another part of Africa that I wanted to read. So any nonfiction about Africa or African countries?

I almost forgot about this list of 50 Nonfiction Books for 50 States. Do you have any suggestions to add to this list?

I am going to enjoy exploring other bloggers’ nonfiction reading lists and projects. I may have to restrain myself from taking on another reading project as a result of reading others’ lists.

Nonfiction November and Me

OK, so Nonfiction November is a celebration of nonfiction during the month of November. Unfortunately, I’m busy during November reading pretty much the opposite of adult nonfiction: speculative fiction for middle grade readers. Well, not unfortunately, because I’m excited to be a judge for the Cybils, but unfortunately as far as nonfiction goes. I will be celebrating nonfiction with a post or two, and I really enjoyed adding more nonfiction to my totally unmanageable TBR list by visiting everyone else who is participating. However, I won’t be actually reading much nonfiction until January.

Anyway, the writing prompt for this week is:

Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

According to my list at Goodreads, I have read 169 books in 2014. Of those the following 16 have been nonfiction:

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi.
Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta.
Everybody Paints! The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin.
The Story of D-Day by Bruce Bliven, Jr.
Against All Odds by Jim Stier.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.
D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944 by Rick Atkinson.
Horrors of History: Ocean of Fire: The Burning of Columbia, 1865 by T. Neill Anderson.
Blue Marble by Don Nardo.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin.
The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller.
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel.
The Last Lion 2: Winston Spencer Churchill Alone, 1932-40 by William R. Manchester.
House Dreams by Hugh Howard.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.
Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre.

By that listing, I’m reading about 10% nonfiction. My favorite book by far of those sixteen was the biographical book about Churchill, The Last Lion 2: Winston Spencer Churchill Alone, 1932-40 by William R. Manchester. There are a few historical people who fascinate me: Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, the apostle Paul, Corrie Ten Boom, Adoniram Judson, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Not all of these people are my heroes, but they are people who lived fascinating and colorful lives. I would love to read more about any of them.

My TBR list at Goodreads has over 200 nonfiction titles on it. (I told you it was unmanageable.) I’m seriously considering reading only nonfiction in 2015, or only nonfiction during the first six months of 2015. Why should I or why should I not try this experiment? I wonder what it would mean for my reading life to read only nonfiction. What is the best nonfiction book you can recommend?

Cybils: Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction

Nominations are open through October 15th for the Cybils, the book awards for children’s and young adult literature that are administered, judged, and awarded by kid lit bloggers. The category description:

We’re looking for titles that are suitable for reading aloud or independently, including picture books and early chapters. We love text and illustrations or photographs that will wow kids and adults alike and topics so fascinating that kids will want to go digging for more, more, more nonfiction! Nonfiction Elementary/Middle Grade includes titles with factual content and informational titles, or books intended to teach. Roughly 50% or more of the book should be narrative nonfiction (as opposed to experiments or activities) and books should be directed generally at ages 3-12.

Here are a few elementary nonfiction books that may deserve a look, but haven’t been nominated yet. If one of these is your favorite, please nominate it for a Cybils award.

The Blue Marble: How a Photograph Revealed Earth’s Fragile Beauty by Don Nardo. NOMINATED
Hitler: How a Photograph Shocked a World at War by Don Nardo.
Tank Man: How a Photograph Defined China’s Protest Movement by Michael Burgan.
Summiting Everest: How a Photograph Celebrates Teamwork at the Top of the World by Emma Carlson Berne.
Walt Disney: Drawn from Imagination by Bill Scollon.
Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood by James McMullan
With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School by Suzanne Slade.
Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri.
Gravity by Jason Chin. NOMINATED
In Search of the Little Prince by Bimba Landmann.
The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis.
Stand There! She Shouted:The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron by Susan Goldman Rubin.
The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta by Fatima Sharafeddine.
It’s Raining by Gail Gibbons. (my favorite nonfiction children’s author)
Behold the Beautiful Dung Beatle by Cheryl Bardoe. NOMINATED

Nominate your favorites in all of the categories, but remember that only those books published between Oct. 16, 2013 and Oct. 15, 2014 are eligible. And only one book per nominator per category.

Confession: I found a lot of these titles, with reviews and links to reviews, at the group blog, Nonfiction Monday. If you’re in the market for nonfiction, old or new, check out Nonfiction Monday.

Autumn Nature Reading

I found these two related posts about good nature books for children and adults in a long ago Carnival of Children’s Literature that I can’t get to now. I’m glad I saved the links.

Beth at Real Learning has a whole 12 weeks worth of autumn nature reading suggestions for an intensive nature study. I’m thinking we should do this someday. Maybe I’d become more of a nature lover if I made myself get outside and read and study and observe along with the urchins.

At the imponderabilia of actual life, Sandy lists her favorite nature books for children. Her favorite and featured author is John Himmelmann. I’m not familiar with this author, but I’m going to grab some of his books on her recommendation. The books sound wonderful.

Some of my favorite nature books and authors:

Jean Craighead George. Ms. George has written over 100 books, some fiction and some nonfiction, all related in some way to nature and the great outdoors. My favorite fiction of hers is My Side of the Mountain, a Newbery Honor book about Sam Gribley, a boy who leaves his home in New York City to live alone on the side of a mountain. She’s also written some delightful nonfiction, including Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and 38 Other Wild Recipes, All Upon a Stone, and One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest.

Jim Arnosky. Mr. Arnosky is both a wildlife artist and an acute observer of nature. His drawing books, about how to draw animals, and his guidebooks that encourage kids to observe and learn, are all fantastic.

Gail Gibbons. Ms. Gibbons is the queen of nonfiction, as far as I’m concerned, writing about almost everything science and technology-related. However, her books The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree and The Pumpkin Book are two of my favorite autumnal treats.

Margaret Waring Buck. “Margaret Waring Buck wrote and illustrated a number of books explaining how animals live in the wild. The typical Buck nature book contains detailed black-and-white drawings of the plants, animals, insects and birds to be found in a particular outdoors location, along with an explanatory text ideal for young naturalists who are beginning to learn about the subject.” ~Dodd Center

Anna Botsford Comstock. Mrs. Comstock was an artist, conservationist, teacher and naturalist during the first half of the twentieth century. Her Handbook of Nature Study became a standard text for teachers, and she was the first female professor at Cornell University.

Diana Hutts Aston. Ms. Aston wrote A Seed Is Sleepy and An Egg Is Quiet and A Butterfly Is Patient, all three wonderful introductions to the wonders of the natural world that God made. An Egg Is Quiet, illustrated by Sylvia Long, won the first Cybils award for picture book nonfiction in 2007.

Nic Bishop. Nic Bishop is known for his nature photography. His book Nic Bishop Frogs won a Cybils award in 2008 for its just right combination of beautiful photos and informative text.

Who are your favorite nature study authors, and what books do you recommend for nature study as we move into the autumn season?

Everybody Paints by Susan Goldman Rubin

Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin.

This family biography grabbed me enough that I had to go look up some of the paintings and illustrations that were mentioned, even though many of them are included in the text.

N.C. Wyeth, the patriarch of the family, was known mostly for his illustrations for children’s and adult classic books, such as Treasure Island and The Boy’s King Arthur. He always wanted to be a fine artist rather than “just an illustrator” but as he grew older and his work received many accolades, he began to see that his youthful aspirations had been achieved after all.

Andrew Wyeth, the son, was the youngest of five children in the Wyeth family, all of whom painted and drew and dabbled in artistic endeavors to some extent. Henriette, the oldest, became a well-known painter of portraits and still lifes. Carolyn, the second child, was also a painter and taught art classes in her father’s studio. Nat, the third child, was a successful inventor. Ann was a musician and a composer. Andrew “considered himself the least gifted. However, he was the most dedicated.” Andrew Wyeth was homeschooled because of his bad health, and his father taught him both art and self-discipline. Andrew Wyeth’s paintings became some of the best-known artworks of the twentieth century, including the one below called Christina’s World.

Jamie Wyeth, the grandson, is the younger of two sons of Andrew. His art tends toward portraiture, jack-o-lanterns, domestic animals, and tree roots as subjects, more modern but still in the photo-realistic style of his father and grandfather.

I found Ms. Rubin’s book informative and readable. Young people who are interested in artists and their family life and working habits will find a lot to think about in Everybody Paints! Homeschoolers, too, will find the book and the Wyeth family of interest since their aversion to formal education and their near-obsession with the artistic life is compatible with the “unschooling” philosophy of some homeschool families.

Against All Odds by Jim Stier

This book is published by YWAM and tells the story of YWAM leader Jim Stier and his missionary work in Brazil during the 1980’s. YWAM stands for Youth With a Mission, “an inter-denominational, non-profit Christian, missionary organization. Founded by Loren Cunningham and his wife Darlene Cunningham in 1960, YWAM’s stated purpose is to know God and to make Him known.” A worthy purpose, but I’m not so sure about the wisdom of all that I read about in Mr. Stier’s book.

I must say that there are some odd episodes in Against All Odds. For instance, the young people who make up Mr. Stier’s “team” receive messages from God by being impressed to look up specific verses in the Bible. It’s almost like the old “let the Bible fall open at random and read God’s message to you”, but for these missionaries the random verses come out of their heads while they are praying. Then, they have to “interpret” the sometimes cryptic message. For instance, one of Stier’s fellow missionaries is impressed to look up Judges 10:22: “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.” The cave is interpreted as the Bible school where the missionaries are, and the five kings are $500. So they take up an offering.

No, it didn’t make sense to me either, and their interpretation has nothing at all to do with the context or literal meaning of the verse itself. A lot of the book is about how Mr. Stier and his wife and family and other missionaries in Brazil trusted God to provide for their financial needs as they began YWAM ministries in Brazil. Although I believe in trusting God for all of our needs, I also believe that Scripture commands us to work for a living: “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” I Thessalonians 4:11 Trusting God for Mr. Stier and his partners in missions looked a lot like waiting around until things got so desperate that someone, somewhere had pity on them and bought them some food or paid their rent.

Mr. Stier and his fellow missionaries do a lot of work, evangelizing, and yes, they are to be commended for their radical obedience to the call of God on their lives. However, I wouldn’t really recommend this book (or YWAM) to young people who are looking for a role model in radical obedience and discernment in following Christ. Surely, there are better ways to inspire (maybe reading Scripture itself?) all of us to be moved to follow Christ while rightly interpreting and following the Word of God.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.

Speaking of hurricanes, as I was a few dye ago, Mr. Larson also wrote Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, about the infamous Galveston hurricane of 1900. The Devil in the White City, set in about the same time period, The Gilded Age 1893, is about a very different kind of man-made disaster, a “perfect storm” of assassination, serial killing, and inflated ambition.

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.” ~architect and world’s fair designer Daniel Burnham.

The plan for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the Americas, was no little plan. Daniel Burnham and his partner John Wellborn Root were the lead architects for the fair, which was seen as Chicago’s and indeed the United States’ opportunity to outshine and outdo the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889-90. The pièce de résistance of the Paris Exposition was French engineer Gustave Eiffel’s La Tour Eiffel, at the time billed as “the tallest edifice ever erected by man” and still to this day the tallest structure in the city of Paris.

“The most marvelous exhibit of modern times or ancient times has now just closed successfully at Paris. Whatever you do is to be compared with that. If you equal it you have made a success. If you surpass it you have made a triumph. If you fall below it you will be held responsible by the whole American people for having assumed what you are not equal to. Beware! Take care!” ~Chauncey Depew, New York railroad tycoon upon the awarding of the world’s fair to Chicago.

So a fantastic, superlative, financially successful, and hugely admired show and exposition was the goal. And Burnham and Root had less than two years from the awarding of the fair to Chicago to put this grand spectacle into place. This half of the book was fascinating and informative.

Intertwined with the story of the building and opening of the world’s fair was the much darker story of a serial killer who operated a house of horrors in Chicago only a few miles from the fair itself. The house of horrors was ostensibly a boarding house/hotel, but it had a number of rather macabre features, such as gas jets in some of the rooms, controlled by the proprietor, and a walk-in furnace in the basement. This part of the story depressed me. Such evil in the shadow of such an ambitious endeavor!

At any rate, the book gives a vivid picture of turn of the century Chicago and the height of the Gilded Age. Mr. Larson is an excellent writer, and if the descriptions of murder and mayhem were a bit too vivid at times, it could be blamed on the actual historical material. Herman Webster Mudgett, aka H.H. Holmes, was an evil man, a sociopath and a man who delighted in deception and murder. How could a book that is partly about his crimes be anything but lurid and depressing?

Does anyone in or from Illinois have a suggestion for my Nonfiction of the States list that would be more representative of the state, not as depressing, but still just as interesting and informative?

Other nonfiction books set in about the same time period (1890-1910), with overlapping characters and events:
American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the “It” Girl, and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu.
Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt.
Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson.

Related fiction, 1890-1910:
Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. This book is the fictional version of The Devil in the White City, except I don’t remember the World’s Fair figuring into the story, and Carrie doesn’t get murdered. She just gets seduced and ruined. Reading these two books together, The Devil in the White City and Sister Carrie, would produce an excellent book club discussion.
Unleavened Bread by Robert Grant.
Beautiful Dreamer by Joan Naper. Reviewed at Reading the Past.
The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson. Newbery honor fiction about an Irish worker who helped build the great Ferris wheel in Chicago in 1893.
The Pit by Frank Norris. Wheat speculation and the commodities market in Chicago.

50+ Nonfiction Books for 50 States

I’m going to move this post to the top of the page for a while, until I get at least a suggestion for each state.

I found this list of 51 adult nonfiction selections, one for each state in the union and D.C.,, interesting but rather slanted toward the liberal (Obama’s book for Hawaii and Biden’s memoir for Delaware?) and the trendy and lurid (lots of drug memoirs and true crime). Maybe “Flavorwire has dug up some of the best nonfiction about specific American locations — in this case, our 50 states — and found 50 books that will shed light on every corner of the country,” but maybe there are better nonfiction books for at least some of the states.

So I thought, why not come up with our own list? I wrote in the ones that I liked or agreed with from the Flavorwire list and added in a few of my own suggestions.

Alabama: Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake-Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia by Dennis Covington. This exploration of Alabama/Appalachia sounds fascinating. Suggested by Nancy Pearl in Book Lust To Go.
Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg. Reviewed at Hope Is the Word.
Alaska: Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness by Robert Specht and Anne Purdy. I’ve seen this one recommended by more than one person. Anyone here read it?
Or maybe A Land Gone Lonesome by Dan O’Neill, recommended in this article at Salon.
Flavorwire suggests Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, a book I have not yet read.
Arizona: Going Back to Bisbee by Richard Shelton. Memoir.
Arkansas: Cash by Johnny Cash with Patrick Carr. From Flavorwire. I haven’t actually read this one, but it sounds good. Any other suggestions from Arkansans?
California: Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner. I’m adding this book because it looks interesting and informative. Has anyone else read it?
Colorado: A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird.
Connecticut: A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle. Or The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by the same author. Both are reflections on family life in a Connecticut farmhouse.
Delaware:
Florida: Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife by Diane Roberts.
Georgia: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. From Flavorwire. I haven’t read this one either, but I’ve intended to read it. Comments anyone?
Hawaii:
Idaho: The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan.
Illinois: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. Another book I’ve been intending to read, recommended by my sister. READ.
Indiana:
Iowa:
Kansas:
Kentucky: The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart.
Louisiana: Huey Long by T. Harry Williams. I read this doorstop of a biography about thirty years ago, and I still remember it. For better or for worse, my conception of Louisiana politics is highly formed and colored by this book.
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by Rod Dreher. I can’t resist providing an antidote to Mr. Long’s out-sized loudmouth life with this tribute to a small life well-lived, also in Louisiana. If you only read one of the two, read Dreher.
Maine:
Maryland: Charm City: A Walk Through Baltimore by Madison Smartt Bell.
Massachusetts: Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes.
Michigan: The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America’s Dilemma by Alex Kotlowitz. Crime and racial division in southern Michigan.
Minnesota:
Mississippi:
Missouri: Truman by David McCullough. Truman was probably about the best thing that ever came out of Missouri. However, my cousin commented on Facebook that he tried to read this bio, and that it was as dry as the man himself. Other suggestions for the Show-Me state?
Montana:
Nebraska: My Nebraska: The Good, the Bad, and the Husker by Roger Welsch.
Nevada: Men to Match My Mountains: The Opening of the Far West, 1840-1900 by Irving Stone. I could make this one the definitive book for California, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado, but I put it here, arbitrarily. No matter which state you focus on, this book is fantastic, readable, well researched, educational, and entertaining.
New Hampshire:
New Jersey:
New Mexico: The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. From Flavorwire. Engineer Husband recommends this Pulitzer prize winning classic.
New York: The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. An unromantic contrast to West Side Story, this book tells how God was still working among gang members in New York City in the 1950’s and 60’s.
North Carolina:
North Dakota:
Ohio:
Oklahoma: The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan. This book could be classified under “North Texas” or even Kansas, but Oklahoma seems like the center of the Dust Bowl.
Oregon: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.
Pennsylvania:
Rhode Island:
South Carolina: Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard. Adam Shepard went to Charleston, South Carolina with $25, a sleeping bag, and the clothes on his back. His goal was, by the end of a year, to have a car, a furnished apartment, and $2500 in the bank.
South Dakota:
Tennessee: Maybe The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan?
Texas: Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger. Texas is a big state, practically five states, but this book at least illuminates one aspect of Texas culture.
Utah: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston.
Vermont:
Virginia: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. From Flavorwire. OK, I’ll go along with this recommendation, even though I’ve tried it and not been able to get in the mood for this nature observation journal of a modern-day pilgrim. I’m still willing to grant that it’s probably very good, and I’ll probably enjoy it very much someday.
Or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Washington: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.
Washington D.C.:
West Virginia:
Wisconsin:
Wyoming:

What do you think? Do any of my readers live in one of the states for which I do not yet have a book listed? I’m even willing to reconsider one I’ve already listed if you have a better choice. Help me fill out this list with books to give us a sense of each state in the union.

Ocean of Fire by T. Neill Anderson

Ocean of Fire: The Burning of Columbia, 1865 by T. Neill Anderson.

If you’re a Civil War buff, even a little inclined in that direction, you must read this somewhat fictionalized story of General Sherman’s capture of the city of Columbia, South Carolina during his “March to the Sea” and the subsequent conflagration that burned the city to the ground. I say “fictionalized” because the author has filled in dialogue and even thoughts that he could not be privy to but could reasonably assume from the available sources. However, the events and characters in the book are real, and their actions are as verified as possible.

Mr. Anderson says that he “relied heavily on the moving, haunting, and tragic first-person accounts of Emma LeConte, Joseph Le Conte, and the Reverend Anthony Toomer Porter.” Indeed, the book basically focuses on the stories of Emma, her father Joseph, and the Rev. Porter. And their stories were moving, haunting, and tragic. I kept picturing the burning of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind as I read about how Columbia burned in much the same way as her Georgia counterpart.

General Sherman, who famously said “war is hell” and who determined to make sure it truly was for the areas of the South that he conquered, has a lot to answer for in the hereafter. He and General Ulysses S. Grant “believed that the Civil War would end only if the Confederacy’s strategic, economic, and psychological capacity for warfare were decisively broken.” (Wikipedia, Sherman’s March to the Sea) Perhaps they were right. The girl, Emma, is pictured in this book as harboring a “white-hot hatred” for the Yankees,and none of the Southerners whose stories are featured are ready to surrender, either before or after the burning of their city which they, of course, blame on the drunken Yankee army. There is some possibility that the Confederates themselves were responsible for starting the fire. No one really knows, and the book doesn’t settle the question.

Another mystery is left unsettled, and I would really like to know the answer: who was the mysterious soldier named Charles Davis? Was he possibly a Confederate spy or did he work for the Yankees? After the city’s collapse he seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Where did he go?

Ocean of Fire is T. Neill Anderson’s second book of his Horrors of History series. The first book in the series, which I have not read but should, is City of the Dead: Galveston Hurricane, 1900.