11. Baum, L. Frank. The Emerald City of Oz (Oz, #6) (295 p.)
12. Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 (385 p.)
May total: 680 pages
2015 total: 4,037 pages
The Emerald City of Oz is a tale of two stories. In one, Uncle Henry & Aunt Em come to live in Oz and take a road trip with Dorothy & the Wizard to visit some of the odder parts of Oz. In the other, the Nome King plans & executes a full-scale invasion of Oz, along with the most powerful & untrustworthy allies around. The former has almost all of the sensawunda, while the latter is by far the better story, with actual antagonists, and it ties them together and ends with a deus ex machina followed by an (unsuccessful) attempt by Baum to make this the last-ever Oz book. It's a fun, light read that does what it can to threaten the status quo and build tension despite the most famous characters being mired in the concrete of unchanging continuity, and the Nomes (and General Guph in particular) are delightfully evil.
Of Plymouth Plantation is the history of the founding of the Plymouth Colony by the Puritans by the man who served as their governor for thirty-some years, and thus the actual story of what become the whole Plymouth Rock, First Thanksgiving, etc. American mythology. Even adapted to modern spelling & grammar, this is something of a dry read with some archaic turns of a phrase, but it gave me a deeper insight into the Puritans' background in England and then Holland, as well as their dealings & relations with the Indians, English ship captains, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Virginia Colony, and their financial backers in England, and the settlers' eventual spreading out to what is now Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. This was especially intriguing because we've been working on my wife's genealogy and have traced lines for both of her parents back to Massachusetts & Connecticut in this time period--though not to the Plymouth Colony itself, as I recall--and this book provided a lot of context for what those people went through, some of the early conflicts with the Indians (and each other). Even accounting for bias, Bradford generally seems to be remarkably clear-eyed and truthful in his history for the time period, even when discussing the colony's rivals and enemies. Very much recommended for the insight into the founding of the first permanent English settlement in New England, and thus some of the foundations of the United States, though I acknowledge that it's not necessarily a text that anyone can just pick up and plow through.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf