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Learning for Life 

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Maybe my fascination with history started up at old Cataldo School, where I'd devour every book on World War II they held in that tiny library. The sinking of the Bismarck, the Battle of Britain — all that excitement sitting on the shelf, waiting just for me.

Careful readers know I frequently write about history in this space. History is the story of humanity — the failings, the triumphs, the wars, the advances of science. History is wisdom.

At the University of Washington, I took the year-long Survey of European History courses from legendary lecturer Jon Bridgman. With his tenure, he secured a beautiful lecture hall looking out on the quad and performed daily miracles: He brought the dead and dusty back to life.

As I finished Bill Bryson's new book, One Summer: America, 1927, I realized this has become quite a habit. One Summer was irresistible — I love it when many threads are woven around one loose topic, in this case the summer of '27. It was a year of turning points — the Great Depression was just two years away, the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, changed movies forever, Prohibition was on its last legs, and air travel, thanks to Charles Lindbergh, was about to take off. It's a really fun book.

Sean, a friend from college, used to love it when he heard a word he didn't know. He'd run to the dictionary, look it up and immediately start throwing it into conversation. I was at his house the other day when his son showed me a Key & Peele YouTube clip, ending with the word "churlish."

"We all looked that up," Sean told me. "Now 'churlish' is our favorite word!" Love it — Sean's passing that enthusiasm on to his kids.

Sometimes when I think of reading another history, I think of Sean flipping madly through the dictionary, with that smile of his. It's that joy you can get from being a lifelong learner. And history has a lot for us to learn. ♦

Ted's Top 10 Favorite Histories

1776 by David McCullough

The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin

Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

Copper Camp by WPA Writers' Project

Sources of the River by Jack Nisbet

The Fair and the Falls by William J.T. Youngs

The Fifties by David Halberstam

How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman

Empire by Niall Ferguson

And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis

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