Sunday, February 15, 2015

A very belated answer to the #Historiannchallenge

With a hat tip to Matthew Linton, here are my off-the-cuff answers to a 'challenge' from Ann Little, who got annoyed last Fall because James McPherson, in a NYT interview, mostly mentioned historians who are/were male and white (ok, that's a little synoptic, but I was cutting to the chase). Note: I haven't reproduced all of the questions; i.e., I've skipped some of them. 

What books are currently on your nightstand?
I don't have a nightstand, mainly because I don't read in bed.

What was the last truly great book you read? 
Sh*t, I think I'll have to pass on that. (I did recently read "Benito Cereno" which, though not quite a book in terms of length, is great.)

Who are the best historians writing today?
I'm not really a historian, so I'll pass on that. (Though I did see a rave review last month of Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton.)

What’s the best book ever written about American history?
This question is so silly I'm not going to dignify it with an answer.

Do you have a favorite biography?
Two that are liked are Ronald Steel's Walter Lippmann and the American Century and Sheldon Novick's Honorable Justice (about Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.).

What are the best military histories?
Not my field. However, the best military histories may be those that integrate military history with economic and political history. I'm thinking of, e.g., David Kaiser's Politics and War and P. Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Somewhat older, Bernard Brodie's War and Politics is reflective and engagingly written. David Bell's The First Total War (which I reviewed here a while back) is interesting and provocative, if not necessarily always convincing.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
Let's make it two dinner parties.
1: George Eliot, Bernard Shaw, and Iris Murdoch. 
2: Karl Marx, Cormac McCarthy, and V.S. Naipaul. [Now that should be fun -- or glum, I suppose, depending on how it played out.]

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