Monday, April 27, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #31

Well-researched history, conveyed justly and coherently, is vital to civilization. We must let in the sunshine of the past in order to help disinfect us from the potential missteps of the present. Or, stated another way: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. On the other hand, you can't "remember" history or science you never learned in the first place, can you? But I digress.

Well-researched history, conveyed justly and coherently, is also fantastic reading. One volume you won't see on any of these shelves, because I donated it in a hopeless attempt to "make more room," is Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life. It's a wonderful read and, just as important, it's a launching pad for a hundred other pieces of history I want to explore and books I want to read. Gaining knowledge doesn't quench the desire for knowledge; it just makes you thirstier.

So here's a small batch of history books, in semi-chronological order, or at least as well as I could do without spending an entire afternoon obsessing. Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab, is by NPR journalist Steve Inskeep, who has also just published Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War. Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time is now appearing disconcertingly relevant, though I think the economic and societal upheavals we will face due to COVID-19 will have a much different look than those of the Great Depression. It's hard to predict the future, though many journalists and thinkers are already attempting to do so. (Ed Yong in The Atlantic, Jonathan V. Last in The Bulwark, and this roundup on Politico have tried to scratch the surface.)

Every Man Dies Alone, by Hans Fallada, is a novel that's based on the true story of Germans Otto and Elise Hampel, who were executed for writing and distributing anti-Nazi postcards in Berlin in the early 1940s. I have it among the history books because it's the best telling of a part of history that should never be forgotten.

Delivered from Evil, a one-volume history of World War II, was written by Robert Leckie, who I blogged about for Relics, Papergreat's now-vanished predecessor.

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