There are many shortcomings in my nonfiction reading (and in me personally, frankly!), and one of them is that I don't read enough straightforward history books. For the most part, I like to get my history more contextually--I love it when historical bits come up in investigative writing, for instance, and I really enjoy reading historical biographies. But for some reason I don't often read or love more stereotypical history books.
The latest such history to leave me cold (pun intended) was William K. Klingaman's and Nicholas P. Klingaman's The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History. I first saw it reviewed over at RickLibrarian, and thought it sounded interesting.
Unfortunately, it was more interesting to read about than it was to read.
This is not to say it was a bad book. The authors actually do quite a good job of putting together a bunch of disparate story lines: in the aftermath of a huge volcanic explosion in Indonesia in 1815, people across the globe had to react to an almost immediate (and quite severe) change in the climate. The authors relate stories of how agriculture in particular was disrupted in Indonesia, the United States, in Switzerland, in Great Britain, and across Europe, and how those climate and agricultural changes affected and shaped culture and historical events. Of course, I found the British and Irish history most interesting--how rising food prices led to riots among workers in Great Britain, in particular--but really, the writing's solid enough.
I'd have to say I skimmed this one more than read it, and I wasn't the only one: Mr. CR reported having the same reaction. For a better review of the book from someone who gave it a closer read than I did, try this one from Maclean's.
*Rick does a much better job than me of reading and describing history books.