Pengallan’s Summer Reading List is designed to transport you from your daily grind of world conquering to exotic locales, intriguing mysteries, feats of daring, struggle, betrayal, and triumph. Separated into three manageable installments, each with a specific theme, the first installment is: True Life Adventures. Travel through three continents and 500 years with people and events so intriguing and compelling, they are only made more so by the fact they are all true. Of course, you are invited to enjoy these works in any order you choose, but we decided to list them chronologically to provide some order.
It was a moment unique in human history, the face-to-face meeting between two men from civilizations a world apart. In 1519, Hernán Cortés arrived on the shores of Mexico, determined not only to expand the Spanish empire but to convert the natives to Catholicism and carry off a fortune in gold. That he saw nothing paradoxical in carrying out his intentions by virtually annihilating a proud and accomplished native people is one of the most remarkable and tragic aspects of this unforgettable story. In Tenochtitlán Cortés met his Aztec counterpart, Montezuma: king, divinity, commander of the most powerful military machine in the Americas and ruler of a city whose splendor equaled anything in Europe. Yet in less than two years, Cortés defeated the entire Aztec nation in one of the most astounding battles ever waged. The story of a lost kingdom, a relentless conqueror, and a doomed warrior, Conquistador is history at its most riveting.
This summer, forsake the fantasy of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, for the horrifying reality of the in the bloodiest mutiny in Royal Navy history. On the night of the twenty-first of September 1797, while cruising the pirate infested waters of the Caribbean, the disgruntled seaman of the British Frigate Hermione, armed with cutlasses and tomahawks, butchered the cruel Captain Hugh Pigot and most of his officer. Dudley Pope, one of Britain’s preeminent naval historians, here chronicles the true story of this brutal mutiny and the subsequent daring recapture of the frigate from the Spanish by Captain Edward Hamilton and the vengeful crew of the H.M.S. Suprise. The story of the Hermione quickly became the stuff of legend throughout the Royal Navy, a heart-wrenching lesson fro officers and seamen alike. Pope combines a historian’s eye for detail and verisimilitude with a novelist's flair for indelible characters and page-turning adventure.
Big game hunting, black tie dinners, soaring flights above the savannah in a bi-plane, a World War, and all the untamed wildness of early 20th century British East Africa, are artfully described in Isak Dinesen’s (Karen Blixen’s nom de plum) autobiographical account of her time in there. At the age of twenty-seven, Karen Blixen left Denmark and sailed for East Africa to marry her cousin Baron Bror Blixen. Together they bought a four-thousand acre coffee plantation in Kenya. From 1914 to 1931 she managed the plantation, even after she and her husband separated. Her account of those years is transformed by the magic of her prose and her supreme gift as a storyteller into a vibrant re-creation of Africa, filled with her affection for and understanding of the land and its people.
In the tradition of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery–and make history themselves. In the fall of 1991, in the frigid Atlantic waters sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey, John Chatterton and Richie Kohler made a startling discovery under decades of accumulated sediment: a World War II German U-boat, its ruined interior a macabre wasteland of twisted metal, tangled wires, and human bones. No identifying marks were visible on the submarine or the few artifacts brought to the surface. No historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men had found. In fact, the official records all agreed that there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location. Over the next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve the mystery. Some of them would not love to see its end.
We hope you find the first installment of our Summer Reading List a worthy diversion from your daily toils. Stay tuned for our next installment, when we will provide you with four more tomes to comb through on the beach, pond, or pool.
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