Have a buff in the family? Are you a buff yourself? Have you found yourself with some extra time over the holiday season? Looking for that perfect gift. I got you, homie.
Here’s a list of ten history book winners in no particular order that should make you – or someone close – happy for the holidays.
The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand – One, reading this will make you seem smart to your friends at parties. Two, it will give you a sense of American thought…yes that’s right – ideas. We have had some in the past, perhaps we will again in the future.
Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz – This is actually the only thing I assign my students in my advanced course on the Civil War that is not a war era first-hand account. Horwitz’s adventures in the post war “Confederacy” should shed a good deal of illumination on our current situation, if you know what I mean.
The Legacy of Conquest by Patricia Nelson Limerick – The West is an American thing, y’all. Or at least, our West is. Does that not make any sense…? Maybe if you read the book then…
An Army and Dawn, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson – The so-called Liberation Trilogy…I swear, I have read every word of all three volumes…TWICE. This is military history at it’s finest.
With Their Bare Hands by Gene Fax – Speaking of military history, a student gifted me this book…her grandfather wrote it. And I was very pleased. The author really brings WWI to life, tracing an American regiment from the beginning to the end in vivid and exhilarating detail.
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Because the country is a mess…and the legacy of slavery is with us in all respects. Progressive or conservative, I do not care…read this and read it with an open mind.
Gettysburg: The Last Invasion by Allen C. Guelzo – I know, I know…there are a million books on Gettysburg and here I am recommending another one. And to be honest, I take issue with a few of the author’s conclusions. But…the man can tell a story better than pretty much anyone I have ever read on the subject. We can argue about the book later.
Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love by Peter Guralnick – ELVIS! The King of Rock…love him or really love him, no one can deny the man’s influence on music. And to make things even better…the guy was just plain weird. I mean really weird. (bonus: read the chapter “I’m All Stopped Up” in Mary Roach’s Gulp…I dare you).
The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin – Yes, I am willing to forgive past accusations of plagiarism. Whatever…to err is human. I think Ms. Goodwin is a hell of a writer, and this dual biography of TR and Taft is a great look at the power of political relationships. For better or worse.
The Mind of the Master Class by Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth-Fox Genovese – this is a dense book that may require an advanced degree to get all the way through…but even so, it will most certainly keep people from talking to you on airplanes. It’s deep, my friend – just try and explain it to your chatty neighbor. You’ll quiet them down fast enough.
BONUS!! To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – because F YOU Biloxi, Mississippi School Board for taking this off your required reading list.
And Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and all the rest – with my compliments –
Peace be with you all…