August 26th, 2019
One of the nice things about semi-retirement is that there is more time to read.
Of course, I always found plenty of time to read before semi-retirement. Even when I was working crazy hours in New York, I had airplane flights, commuter trains, and time before bed.
Reading, to me, is as essential as breathing. That’s why I’m always surprised to meet people who don’t feel that way.
Some people don’t read at all. Some read only detective novels or bestsellers. Some read only business or self-help books.
I read history and serious fiction (but I also read spy and detective novels). Lately, I’ve become obsessed with books that sort of “explain it all” for you: Stephen Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, Yuval Harari’s Sapiens and similar tomes. I have also enjoyed reading books about exploration and discovery, including David McCullough’s The Pioneers and Hampton Sides’ In the Kingdom of Ice.
I just finished an interesting book called Endeavour: The Ship that Changed the World, by an English author named Peter Moore. Most of the book is about James Cook’s first voyage, during which he “discovered” New Zealand and Australia. But the core of the book is about the ship itself, a 368-ton ship built in Whitby in the north of England and designed originally to transport coal.
In its 20-year lifespan, the ship was used as a coal bark, as an exploration vessel, as a troop transport and, finally, as a prison barge, one of the “hulks” on which the British kept American prisoners of war in Newport Harbor during the Revolutionary War.
Moore goes into detail — perhaps a little too much detail — about how ships were built in the mid-18th Century, starting with the search for sturdy oak trees. It’s hard not to be impressed by the ingenuity and industry of shipbuilders in the great age of sail.
A good, not too demanding read covering a vast array of connected topics — shipbuilding, exploration, late 18th century British politics, natural history — what more can we ask for?