This coming Friday, I am scheduled to talk to a group about three books:
What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe
Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham
Paleofantasy by Marlene Zuk
I figured out the other day that I started making presentations in 1961 in my 5th grade classroom and have been doing them more or less continuously ever since. That makes 55 years of talking to people. Naturally, over that time, I have developed a typical routine for getting ready. Make notes, put them in a good sequence, make a set of slides or a document to be projected onto a screen at the front of the room.
I read some every day and I like to look over what I have read for items that might be of interest and seem likely to be somewhat novel for typical adult readers. My usual audience includes intelligent people of an age and experience that gives them very good questioning skills. It makes sense to have some planned remarks about the books and their themes, even though I certainly don't know or understand everything in them. When I read these books, I did not know I would later see the possibility of giving a talk about them.
Now, in going over them, I am quite surprised at how much is in them. I can open any of them at random and get new insights from a page I thought I had already digested. This has been especially noticeable with the Howe book above. I have been developing excuses I can give for not knowing what is in the books I am going to talk about. I thought I had read "What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848" but wow! There is so much in there of high interest that I didn't know and I won't have time to talk about all the interesting parts and comments.
It is my wife's fault that I got the Howe book in the first place. Dr. St. Maurice should take some of the blame, too. Lynn wrote "The Reasons for Stevens Point" in 1978. It is a video of historical background on the town. In it, she emphasizes the difference the railroad made to the town and to transportation in general. In the book "Death Comes to the Archbishop", the new archbishop is called to Rome from Santa Fe, New Mexico. It takes about a year for Bishop Latour to go from Santa Fe to Rome and back and that was with the assistance of trains from St. Louis to New York. Dr. St. Maurice made me aware of the existence of "The Victorian Internet", which is about the telegraph.
What God wrought involved a great deal more than just the railroad and the telegraph, magical, unbelievable as they were for people used to horses and sails. I am re-reading the 928 pages with more of an eye for appreciating where we are and how we got here.