Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer Reading

What I like the most about the summer months is that once the school work is done, there is plenty of time to read. I always have plenty of reading recommendations for friends, and this batch of material is also worthy of a mention.

1. "The History Boys" by David Halberstam. Halberstam, who died earlier this past spring, was an enormously influential public historian who wrote about topics as diverse as the American auto industry to the Vietnam War. In his last essay, published posthumously by Vanity Fair, Halberstam attacks President Bush's argument that he is the new Harry Truman, and the administration's general and careless embrace of history. I especially appreciate Halberstam's smashing critique of comparing Americans who oppose the war in Iraq as "appeasers" and "traitors wishing for another Yalta." Halberstam correctly notes the enormous difference between the current administration's interpretation of Yalta and the reality of the situation in 1945; namely that the Americans could do nothing about eastern Europe in February of 1945, as the Soviet Union had well over 5 million troops occupying these lands, and were at the gates of Berlin. Even the neo-conservatives' hero, Winston Churchill, noted that there was nothing that the UK or the USA could do about the Soviet occupation of eastern Europe. There was nothing Truman could do either, and there is little to suggest that Bush would have done any of the painstaking alliance building that Truman did to create NATO, the UN, the WTO and many other international organizations that the current President has little time for. The article also has this great parody of Ben West's The Death of Wolfe done by Edward Sorel. Truly the apotheosis of the neo-conservative hero.

2. Stephen Carter's New England White. Producing another mystery regarding upper-class African Americans, Carter a great scholar and novelist. If you like history, a book that teaks Yale University, and fast-paced book of 600 pages, this is for you. New England White is not quite as good as The Emperor of Ocean Park, but still a good second effort.

3. Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. While I moved away from doing Civil War history as a paying gig, I still enjoy reading books regarding various military campaigns. This book, written by academic historians William Shea and Earl Hess, is well suited for a popular audience. The writing style is brisk, free from academic jargon, and is an excellent introduction to the Civil War in the Trans-Missouri Theater of operations. I would recommend it for anyone, especially should you be visiting the battlefield in the near future (I still have not been here myself). My next Civil War read is Stephen Rhea's The Battle of the Wilderness, which is the first title in a five volume series on the Eastern Theater in 1864.

4. Not a book per-se, but a blog about a planner's road trip on US Highway 50. I really enjoyed reading this, as the author traveled through an assortment of regions and communities, each facing different development and regional planning issues. If you have time to read his entire story, check it out.

I am currently reading some planning books (which I will post on at a later time), and various titles regarding Presbyterian History. If anyone has any recommendations on the latter topic, I would appreciate any suggestions.

1 comment:

Suzanne B. said...

:) Whenever I see "New England White" at Schuler, I smile. Why? Because that's Harkness Tower on the cover! And I can say: I've been at the top of that thing!


But it's good to know that the book's enjoyable. I'll read it, if I get the chance.