The antilibrary

Here is Maria Popova on Naseem Nicholas Taleb on Umberto Eco:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Read the Popova’s entire piece here.

The ZOOM Bookshelf

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How many of you try to identify books on the bookshelves of your favorite television pundits as they broadcast from home? (I’ve noticed that Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton and David McCullough’s biography of John Adams are popular).

When you are on a ZOOM call do you find yourself looking past the speaker to see what titles are on the shelves?

If so, you are not alone. Here is Amanda Hess at The New York Times:

Imagine that you are a member of the expert class — the kind of person invited to pontificate on television news programs. Under normal circumstances, your expertise might be signaled to the public by a gaudy photograph of skyscrapers superimposed behind your head. But now the formalities of the broadcast studio are a distant memory, and the only tools to convey that you truly belong on television are the objects within your own home. There’s only one move: You talk in front of a bookcase.

As the broadcast industry shelters in place, the bookcase has become the background of choice for television hosts, executives, politicians and anyone else keen on applying a patina of authority to their amateurish video feeds. In March, when the coronavirus put the handshaking and baby-kissing mode of presidential campaigning on pause, Joe Biden conspicuously retreated from public view for several long days as his team scrambled to project an air of competence from within Biden’s basement. When he finally re-emerged, it was in front of a carefully curated wall-length bookshelf punctuated with patriotic memorabilia like a worn leather football and a triangle-folded American flag.

In April, an anonymous Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, emerged to keep an eye on the trend and quickly accumulated more than 30,000 followers. Its tagline is “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you,” and it offers arch commentary on the rapidly solidifying tropes of the genre as well as genuine respect for a well-executed specimen. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears before “a standard credibility wallpaper presentation in the unthreatening homely style.” The migrants’ rights activist Minnie Rahman’s Encyclopaedia Britannica collection “is a lazy hand wafted at convention.” And the British politician Liam Fox’s “bold grab at credibility is somewhat undermined by the hardback copy of The Da Vinci Code.”

Read the rest here.

History Summit 2020

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Historian Lindsey Chervinsky has put together an impressive group of short talks from authors of new history books. This should keep any history buff busy during quarantine!

Authors include Chervinsky, Julian Zelizer, Serena Zabin, Megan Kate Nelson, Ann Tucker, James Carter, Paige Glotzer, Shannon Bontrager, Jamie Goodall, David Head, Peniel Joseph, Jen Manion, John Turner, Le’ Trice Donaldson, Sarah Jane Marsh, Douglas Boin, Joshua Greenberg, Benjamin Park, Richard Bell, Adam Domby, Lauren Turek, Whitney Martinko, Joseph Adelman, Emily Pawley, and Alex Sayf Cummings.

Enjoy!

Need Something to Read During Your Self-Quarantine? Check Out Hearts & Minds Bookstore

Hearts and Minds 2

Please consider Byron and Beth Borger at Hearts & Minds Bookstore for all of your reading needs during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond. Hearts & Minds is especially strong in theology, biblical studies, church history, and Christian perspectives on social issues and culture. I just got a big box from Byron on Thursday. I bought some N.T. Wright, Karl Barth, James K.A. Smith, John Inazu, and Tim Keller!

Here is a taste of Byron’s recent “Booknotes”:

I didn’t send out a BookNotes newsletter last week – thanks for noticing – because, well, I just didn’t want to add to the noise. We are all inundated with information. We are still working 12-hour days (more or less) six days a week and find it hard to keep up with the videos, Zoom meetings, news stories, Facebook posts, updates, calls to action, and articles I need to read. I’m sure many of our readers, customers, and friends are feeling it, too. It’s hard to read and write when one anxious and exhausted.

So no big Corona Virus essay from me (other than the reminder to stay home the best you can. This is serious stuff and we love our neighbors well by minimizing contact, despite what our President has foolishly tweeted.)

We are, of course, closed for in-store business. Last week we were making mad dashes to the parking lot and doing curb-side deliveries, but we now believe that violates our Governor’s ruling about closing “non-life sustaining” businesses. We are now just doing mail order and some local deliveries. For now it is our hope to continue to ship stuff out daily, so send us a note or give us a call. We need the business, believe me… and maybe you need some books.

So let’s get to it. Here are a dozen or so new books (and one or two others I just have to mention.) I’ll try to keep it mostly brief, with hefty apologies to the good authors who deserve more extended reviews. These excellent titles are almost all of that deserving caliber of consideration and I could wax eloquent about them. If you order them, you’ll see for yourself…

As always, you can click on the link at the very bottom of this column to be taken directly to our secure order form page. Just tell us what you want and we’ll deduct the discount and take it from there. It is our pleasure to serve you in this way. All books are 20% off.

Read the rest here to learn about new books on beauty, Bonhoeffer, the Psalms, belief and unbelief, writing, creation care, cultural engagement, common grace, the book of Exodus, child-rearing, and the current state of evangelicalism.

Former Democratic Presidential Candidate Michael Bennet Reads Books

Michael Bennet during the New Hampshire Primary

I really enjoyed this New York Review of Books interview with Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. Susannah Jacob writes about Bennet: “Before he ran, he read history and journalism for “six or eight months” to moor himself by gaining a long view on the present threats to American democracy.  The authors he read included Frederick Douglass, Emma Lazarus, Jill Lepore, Nancy Isenberg, George Packer, Matthew Desmond Plutarch, Montesquieu, and David Blight.

Here is a taste of the interview:

You write about expanding the notion of our founders and adding people in our history and in contemporary life who expanded America’s progress—Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, José Martí, others. I would love for you to continue to explain and elaborate, but also clarify precisely what that means.

I think that the job of Americans since the founding—which we’ve never done perfectly, ever, including at the founding itself, obviously—has been to make this country more democratic, more fair, and more free. Small-d democratic, more fair, and more free. And to fight to force America to keep the promises that America made on the page, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it the night before he was killed in Memphis.

I still think that’s our job as American citizens. I believe every single one of us has the responsibility to be a founder. In our time what that means to me is, among other things, making sure that every single person that’s eligible to vote actually casts a vote in this country, and making sure that every kid in America who’s born poor has the chance to get out of that poverty, get a quality education, so they, too, can participate in the democracy.

How should we reckon with the original founders’ mistakes and, at the same time, take direction from them? How do you approach that?

I do that every single time I have a middle school class or a high school class come visit me. We talk about how the building they’re sitting in was built by enslaved human beings. Not this building, but the Capitol across the street.

And that leads to a discussion about Frederick Douglass, about the Civil War, about what was at stake, because I tell them the founders did two astonishing things in their generation: they led an armed insurrection against the colonial power that succeeded—we call that the Revolution—and they wrote a Constitution that was ratified by the people that would live under it.

They [also] did something horrific and reprehensible, which is that they perpetrated human slavery. It took other Americans to correct that terrible wrong, just as it took generations of Americans to fight so that women in this country would have the right to vote, so that my daughters could have the right to vote. I think of those people as founders, too, as consequential and as substantial as the people who wrote the Constitution.

How do the middle schoolers respond?

I hope what they take away from it is a sense that this wasn’t all just here. Two hundred and thirty years ago, none of this stuff was here, and there’s no reason to expect that it will still be here two hundred and thirty years [from now], unless we do our job.

How did your reading come up in conversations with people you met while campaigning?

George Packer’s Unwinding(2013), which is on that table somewhere, and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted (2016) both speak exactly to the underlying contemporary issues that we’re facing in our economy, an economy that for fifty years has not worked well for most Americans. When I’m on the campaign trail I hear people say, “We’re working really hard [and] can’t afford housing,” [or] healthcare, some combination of housing, healthcare, education, early childhood education. I think about the families in my school district who say, “We are killing ourselves, no matter what we do, we can’t get our kids out of poverty.”

Desmond does a very, very good job of close-quarter reporting back to America on the effects of federal housing policy, how it has made working peoples’ lives more difficult in many cases, not easier. And I think in Packer’s reporting, what you see is the strains on a democracy when you’ve got an economy that works well for the people at the very top but not for everybody else.

What about the history? Were there times when you were learning from exposure to people on the campaign trail, where you saw the parallels between observations made in the history to people you were meeting or what they were describing?

There’s really nothing new under the sun. I think we have a tendency to over-assess the novelty of new conditions that arise, and we also have an under-appreciation for the effect we can have as individuals on history. Including elected officials, but I wouldn’t say just elected officials.

Read the entire interview here.

Why Do Hardcovers Get Published Before Paperbacks?

books

The other day someone asked me this very question. I am glad that Michele Debczak has answered it at Mental Floss. Here is a taste of her piece:

Paperbacks revolutionized American reading habits when they first appeared in the 1930s. The softcover “pocket books” were cheaper to print, cheaper to buy, and easier to transport than the bulky hardcovers that had previously dominated bookstores. By 1960, paperbacks were the preferred book format of readers.

Despite their popularity, it’s still impossible to find paperback versions of many new books when they debut. It’s a common practice among publishers to release new titles as hardcovers and publish the paperback edition about a year after the initial print run. People who do their reading at the beach or on the subway may not be happy about it, but the financial benefits of this model mean it likely isn’t going away any time soon

“While a hardcover book is more expensive to print than a paperback, the publisher does traditionally make more money on that edition, allowing them to earn back the author’s advance and the costs they incurred for printing, shipping, marketing, and distribution,” Dinah Dunn, a partner at the book packager Indelible Editions, tells Mental Floss.

Read the rest here.

The 10 Most Checked-Out Books in New York Public Library History

Snowy Day

Here is the list.  How many of these have you read?

1. “The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats (485,583 checkouts)

2. “The Cat in the Hat,” by Dr. Seuss (469,650)

3. “1984,” by George Orwell (441,770)

4. “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak (436,016)

5. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee (422,912)

6. “Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White (337,948)

7. “Fahrenheit 451,” by Ray Bradbury (316,404)

8. “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie (284,524)

9. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” by J.K. Rowling (231,022)

10. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle (189,550)

A Glimpse of the American Society of Church History Book Exhibit

Martin Spence is Associate Professor of History at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He is writing for us this weekend at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (and related organizations) in New York City.  Enjoy his latest post.  –JF

Here’s a sample of what’s on the ASCH bookstands. The volume the religious imagination of Stephen King—appropriately placed next to a book on witchcraft—looks particularly intriguing.

Bookstand 1

I’m looking forward to reading John Wolffe’s Sacred and Secular Martydom in Britain Since 1914. It offers chapters on the World Wars, the Falklands Conflict and Irish Nationalism.

Bookstand 2

A collection of books on American religious pasts and futures from Eerdmans:

Bookstand 3

I’m hoping to read this volume by Amy Collier Artman on Kathryn Kuhlman, who has always appeared to me a very enigmatic figure. A good sampling of some of the recent interest in political spiritual biography too, including FDR and Robert E. Lee.

Bookstand 4

I’m also looking forward to reading this book that has been crafted on the religious significance of Hobby Lobby, a useful counterpart to Bethany Moreton’s book a few years ago on the spiritual significance of Walmart.

Bookstand 5

The Books Donald Trump Recommended in 2019

judge Jeanine

Donald Trump recommended a book by Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro

Matthew Dessem of Slate has collected the complete list.  How many did Trump read?

Here are a few:

• The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free, by Rich Lowry.

• Choosing the Extraordinary Life: God’s 7 Secrets for Success and Significance, by Robert Jeffress.

• Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino.

• Our Lost Declaration: America’s Fight Against Tyranny From King George to the Deep State, by Mike Lee.

• Power Grab: The Liberal Scheme to Undermine Trump, the GOP, and Our Republic, by Jason Chaffetz.

• Radicals, Resistance, and Revenge: The Left’s Plot to Remake America, by Jeanine Pirro.

• Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour of Arlington National Cemetery, by Tom Cotton.

• Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us, by Donald Trump Jr.

• Unfreedom of the Press, by Mark R. Levin.

• Why We Fight: Defeating America’s Enemies—With No Apologies, by Sebastian Gorka.

• Witch Hunt: The Story of the Greatest Mass Delusion in American Political History, by Gregg Jarrett.

• With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace, by Nikki R. Haley

Read the entire list here.

Why Used Bookstores are So Satisfying

Lines in Midtown

When you visit a used bookstore you may stumble across a great find!  🙂

Over at Literary Hub, Kelsey Rexroat offers some great advice on how to shop at a used bookstore.  Here is a taste:

Summer is a good season for bookstores. As the weather warms, more foot traffic passes by on the street. Front doors can be left open to entice wander-ins. The relaxed flow of summer reading lends itself to spontaneous finds plucked from the shelf instead of purposeful winter tomes. And visitors tend to linger as the daylight hours lengthen.

At least some do. There’s another type of customer encounter that happens at least once a shift at the used bookstore where I work, sometimes a dozen times. A customer walks in, beelines to where I’m helming the front desk, and asks a variation of the same question: “Do you have this specific book?”

I’ve worked at the register for two used bookstores—the nonprofit Housing Works Bookstore in New York City’s Soho and the cooperatively run Adobe Bookstore in San Francisco’s Mission District—so I’ve fielded this question hundreds of times. It’s usually easy to answer. Often I know immediately that we don’t have the book in question, simply because it’s a new release. Used books have to be circulated to the public, digested, and then passed through households and among friends like persistent rumors before they make their way to us. For older titles, our inventory isn’t catalogued and changes daily, but I’m more than happy to search our stock in the relevant section, with occasional success.

Read the entire piece here.

It’s all about serendipity.

Inside the Mind of the Literary Editor

Writing

If you write books, Lauren Toor’s interview with literary agent Susan Rabiner is a must read.  They cover the art of making an argument, the practice of narrative history, and the topics that are “hot” right now in trade publishing.

Here is a taste:

Can you define what you mean by narrative?

Rabiner: Sure. You don’t create narrative by simply inserting lots of anecdotes, character portraits, or description. Those features are terrific but are not meant to stand on their own. They are part of a story that creates a kind of tension in the reader — a need to find out where the book is going and how it will add up.

And remember, the story doesn’t have to be a story about people. It can be the story of an idea — how and why we once believed something and now do not. It can be the story of an event that we have been interpreting one way but should be re-examining in a different light.

Read the entire interview here.

It’s #LibraryShelfieDay

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The primary sources I am working with right now

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Jersey keeps an eye on things

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These books look familiar.  🙂

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Part of the “H” shelf

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I still need to bring some order to this shelf

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Part of the “N” and “O” shelf

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Part of the “C” shelf

What Makes Your Book Valuable?

Fea books

How do authors measure the success of their books?  Rachel Toor asks this question in a very interesting piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Given my history in publishing, people often ask me for help with their book projects. One of the first things I ask them: What is your goal? What do you want to achieve by publishing the book?

“Getting it out there in the world” is too vague. With publishing, as in many aspects of life, specific is better and more attainable.

It requires hard thinking to make a list of what success will look like for you, but my advice is to do this exercise before the book is published, or even as you start work on the manuscript. Some things will be within your control. Others you can only hope for. If, on that list, you have items that are not measurable in terms of sales or money, I say that’s OK. You get to define what success looks like for you.

Read the entire piece here.

So how do I measure the success of my books?  It depends on the book:

The Way of Improvement Leads Home:   I wrote this to establish myself as an early American historian.  I thus published it with a respectable university press. I hope it makes some small contribution to our understanding of the Enlightenment in America.  In that sense, I think it has been a success.  But, much to my surprise, the story of Philip Vickers Fithian seems to captivate people.  Dozens of people tell me that they cried at the end of the book.  K-12 teachers have pushed me to write a grade-school edition of Fithian’s life.  So, in this case, the book has been successful for reasons I did not expect when I wrote it.

Confessing History:  I edited this book with close friends Jay Green and Eric Miller.  The fact that we were able to work on this book together makes it a success in my mind.  But I also hope the book has established me as a scholar writing out of a particular tradition.  In this sense, it has been successful.  I think we are asking our readers–Christian undergraduates and graduate students, Christian faculty members, and students of historiography–to join us in a conversation about the relationship between Christian faith and the historian’s vocation.

Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?:  This book was written for a popular audience. I think it has been successful for two reasons.  First, it has brought historical thinking to a much-politicized debate on American identity.  Second, it has provided college professors who are interested in this debate with a text to assign to their students.

Why Study History?  I measure the success of this book by how often it is assigned in history survey courses, introduction to history courses, and historiography or methods courses.  I am encouraged by how many college and high school history departments are using it.

The Bible Cause:   In terms of sales, this has been my most unsuccessful book. Institutional histories are tough to sell.  The value of the book is its modest contribution to American religious history.  It will sit on library shelves and I hope it will be consulted whenever a scholar’s work intersects with the history of the Bible in America.

Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:  This book will be successful if it: 1). Gets my fellow evangelicals to think differently about their support for Donald Trump.  2). Helps anti-Trump evangelicals to dialogue with their pro-Trump friends.  3).  Helps the larger community of scholars, journalists, politicos, and pundits understand why so many evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.   So far I think the book has been successful on points 2 and 3.  Has it been successful as it relates to point 1?  Only time will tell.

The Best Christian Bookstore in America

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Byron Borger, doing what he does best

I had some last minute Christmas shopping to do on December 24, 2018 so I drove down to Dallastown, Pennsylvania (about a 40-minute drive) to visit Byron and Beth Borger at Hearts & Minds Bookstore.  Beth was not around on this day, but Byron quickly emerged from the back of the store sporting a festive green dress shirt and a red flannel tie.  After exchanging pleasantries, we got down to work.

  • I wanted a thoughtful and liturgical devotional for my wife, Joy.  Byron introduced me to Frederick Schumacher’s For All the Saints: A Prayer Book for and By the Church.  I bought it.
  • I wanted a book on vocation and calling for my youngest daughter.  When I asked Byron for the best book on the subject he pulled a copy of Os Guinness’s The Call off the shelf.  I bought it.
  • This same daughter is thinking seriously about pursuing environmental studies in college and I wanted a nice Christian primer on creation care.  Byron recommended Matthew Sleeth’s Serving God, Saving the Planet: A Call for Creation and Your Soul.  I bought it.
  • I wanted to buy a Wendell Berry novel for my older daughter.  Byron has an entire section on Berry’s fiction and non-fiction.  I bought her a copy of Hannah Coulter.

By the way, you can buy all these books from Beth and Byron at Hearts & Minds.  Just send him an e-mail and he will get them into your hands as soon as possible.

After I was done with my gift-shopping, I did some shopping for myself and spent a few hundred bucks on new hardbacks.  Byron coached me through every selection.  He recommended philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff’s memoir.  I finished it last week and it did not disappoint.  He tentatively suggested literary scholar Anthony Esolen’s Nostalgia, but warned me that it was very conservative.  He was right.  I liked about a third of it.  Byron provided a narrative for every book I bought that day (and some that I didn’t buy). I left encouraged, inspired, and intellectually satisfied.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans, a freelance religion reporter who I have worked with in the past.  She told me that Hearts & Minds was not doing very well financially and that she was working on a story about it.  I talked to her for about thirty minutes.  Her piece appeared at Religion News Service today.  Here is a taste:

The first book that Byron and Beth Borger sold at the Hearts & Minds bookstore was a copy of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

For the Borgers, it was a perfect fit.

But their customer was a bit perplexed since the book isn’t standard fare at Christian bookshops.

“The first customer asked, ‘What kind of bookstore carries Les Mis?’” said Byron Borger. “We said, ‘What kind of bookstore doesn’t?’”

Hearts & Minds has long been an anomaly in the world of Christian retail.

The Borgers, who previously worked for a Christian campus ministry group, launched their Dallastown store during the faith-based-bookstore boom times of the 1980s. They bucked evangelical conventions by including Catholic writers such as Thomas Merton, tackling topics like racial justice and featuring books by spiritual formation proponent Richard Foster, whose take on the Christian life was considered radical.

Back in the day, they faced boycotts, pickets and even death threats from the Ku Klux Klan over a display of books from Martin Luther King Jr., said Byron Borger. The store survived them all — and thrived for years, attracting fans among customers and authors.

Contemporary challenges are different — and perhaps more threatening.

With ongoing demise of Christian retail stores, consolidation in the Christian publishing industry and the continued dominance of online sellers such as Amazon, the future of this idiosyncratic venture is uncertain.

In recent years, the Borgers have cut back on staff and dipped into their savings to keep the story going.

“I’m not embarrassed to say that we have not been doing well,” said Borger. “We have not been self-sustaining.”

Despite the struggles, Hearts & Minds has a loyal following, readers who appreciate the couple’s wide-ranging knowledge of the Christian book scene.

The store appeals to mainline Protestants and what Beth Borger refers to as “thinking evangelicals” — Christians with traditional beliefs about theology whose faith prompts them to care about injustice. There are more than a few in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, where Hearts & Minds draws most of its support, said Beth Borger.

Read the rest here.  And then start buying some books from Hearts & Minds.

Here are some pics:

hearts and minds book haul

I bought these books for my library on December 24, 2018

 

heartd and minds 2017

 I bought these books at Hearts & Minds back in 2015

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Last summer I did a book talk on *Believe Me* at Hearts Minds

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Beth and Byron have most of my books in stock

On Book Exhibits and World War II Material Culture (#AHA19)

Megan Jones of The Pingry School offers one more post from the floor of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago.  In this post, Megan reflects on her last day of the conference with a nod to the book exhibit and a panel on visual culture and the end of World War II. (Read all of Megan’s posts here).  Enjoy!  –JF

The book exhibit is one of the best parts of an academic conference, particularly for someone who does not have the time to keep up with book reviews in academic journals. A scholar browsing the exhibit hall for new titles is like a child perusing a candy store, and the feeling of ecstatic curiosity is probably about the same. Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) had a great GIF of the wizard from Disney’s “Fantasia” to represent his analysis of historians in book exhibits. I spent about two hours walking through the hall. Here’s a screenshot of my camera roll showing the books I found particularly appealing:

megan pics

I’m going to (hopefully) be teaching a course on American environmentalism, Atlantic World and modern European revolutions, and Modern World History in the future, so my selection is fairly broad. I even persuaded a few publishing reps to send me free samples. Score.

The best panel I attended on Day 3 was session #173, “Visualizing Victory, Visualizing Defeat: The Material Culture of Occupation in the Wake of World War II.” Two PhD candidates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison gave fascinating talks on the afterlives of visual artifacts in the postwar period. Abigail Lewis discussed the various uses and changing meaning of photographs taken by French photographers during the Vichy regime. These images depicted a relatively happy and peaceful France under Nazi occupation, which can be best explained by the fact that only photographers who agreed to abide by Nazi rules could obtain material with which to actually shoot photos. These images were used after the end of WWII to depict occupation in a blockbuster show at the Grand Palais in 1946, and also during a 2008 retrospective.  Jennifer Gramer spoke about German war art and the confiscation of such work by the American Captain Gordon Gilkey with the Roberts Commission, and the choices made to determine which art was deemed potentially capable of inciting violence in the future.

Both Lewis and Gramer discussed how the images and works they studied had different meaning for the French and Germans depending on the time under consideration. Both also questioned how the meaning of images changes depending on the context – should we look at an image divorced from its historical context and deem it “artistic” as in the case of German war art, some of which is objectively beautiful and clearly drawn by a talented artist? Do the images taken by French photographers indicate their complicity with the Vichy regime, or were they subversively collaborating with the idea that their images would serve as a documentary record for posterity? Who gets to determine the meaning of an image? The questions Lewis and Gramer posed, which I am probably doing no justice to, speak to a broader question of who owns history and who has the right to interpret historical artifacts.

Thanks, Megan!

Stocking Stuffers for the History Buff in Your Life

Maybe you know someone trying to make historical sense of why so many white evangelicals supported Donald Trump.  Or perhaps you want to expose your Trump-voting evangelical friend to a different evangelical take on Trump:

Believe Me JPEG

Or perhaps you know someone who loves the Bible and wants to learn more about an organization that has been distributing the Holy Brook for more than 200 years:

Bible Cause Cover

Maybe you have a son or daughter who is thinking about studying history in college and you want to know more about what historians do, how they think, and what she/he can with the major:

Why Study History

Do you know someone who is trying to make sense of this question?

Christian America book

OK, this next book is for the hardcore Christian historian in your life.  If you want to think deeply about the relationship between Christian faith and the history:

Confessing

Finally, if you know someone who wants to learn more about an 18th-century farmer and diarist who tried to balance his ambition with his passion for home, his revolutionary-era patriotism with his Christian faith, and his love of a woman with his pursuit of a genteel life, you may enjoy the story of Philip Vickers Fithian.

Fithian 2

Order any of these books from your favorite bookstore.  I recommend Hearts & Minds Books.  Byron and Beth Borger will take care of you.

Book Coverage is on the Rise

Book Reviews

As an author, I am happy to learn that media outlets are starting to devote a little more attention to books.  Sam Eichner tries to make sense of this rise in book coverage in an interesting piece at Columbia Journalism Review.  Here is a taste:

IF IT OCCASIONALLY FEELS like nobody reads books, anymore—that we are indeed witnessing the slow death of the literary novel, and the rapid decline of leisure readingand the steady increase of American non-readers—why is it that mainstream publications are writing more about them?

Since the beginning of 2017, The New York Times has continued to expand its already robust book coverage. More recently, New York announced that it would triple its book coverage. In October, The Atlantic launched a Books section and a newsletter, “The Books Briefing,” with plans for “additional products.” Even BuzzFeed is getting in on the action: in November, they launched an online book club, complete with an attendant Facebook group and newsletter.

For the Times and The Atlantic, the changes arrived at a moment of substantial growth for each publication as a whole.

Read the rest here.

Are You Shopping on Small Business Sunday? Here are Some Great Independent Bookstores

Caroline with Book

You never know what you will find in an independent bookstore!

All of these stores hosted the Believe Me book tour:

Hearts & Minds, Dallastown, PA

Midtown Scholar, Harrisburg, PA

Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.

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What’s the Most Influential Book of the Past 20 Years?

Rodgers

The Chronicle of Higher Education asked scholars to answer this question.  Here are some of the titles they chose:

Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Robert Putnam: Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Jo Guildi and David Armitage, The History Manifesto

Jonathan Levy: Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in Modern America

Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

David Harvey,  A Brief History of Neoliberalism

Jessica Riskin, The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument Over What Makes Living Things Tick

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement

Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness

Daniel T. Rodgers, The Age of Fracture

Read the entire list here.

2 Questions:

  1. How many have you read?
  2. What books would you add to the list?