Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The bookshelf

Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible: I couldn't finish his Pagans and Christians -- *enough* already about dream interpretation! -- but this one was more readable, as a classicist's look at the text and history of the Bible and what import that has for how much of it is "true" in any normal historical sense. He comes to some interesting conclusions, for instance that John's gospel is the most likely to be based on an eyewitness account of Jesus by one of his disciples. Not for the fideistically squeamish.

A.J.P. Taylor, The First World War: Somehow I'd never picked up Taylor's little essay on the war, which seems to've held up well in the past 50 years. The Amazon reviews are entertaining -- consensus being that it shouldn't be the *only* book one reads on WW1, but that one should definitely read it. I would disagree; if you're the kind of person who will read only one book, ever, on WW1, then you are much more likely to finish Taylor's book than any other.

Kenneth O. Morgan, The People's Peace: British History 1945-1990: Found this previously unsuspected book at Choctaw Books in Jackson, and have enjoyed my desultory way through it, being quite ignorant of postwar Britain. Mostly a political account.

Peter Longerich, Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews: Saw this blurbed in the Atlantic as being "hailed as the definitive single-volume history of the development and implementation of the Final Solution," and the new English version updates the 1998 original -- was pleasantly surprised to find it on the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble. Longerich suggests that the intentionalist/structuralist divide is really two sides of one coin, which is probably correct but effectively a win for the structuralists: no, Hitler did not sit down with Goering and Himmler the night of January 30, 1933, and say "all right boys, now that I'm chancellor, let's work out how we're going to exterminate the Jews." Still in the "persecution" part of the book, but having high hopes.

... Pierre Goubert, The Course of French History: It's absurdly difficult to find a decent survey of French history in the bookstore, as opposed to half a shelf on events from 1789-1815. Goubert's 1984 volume (found in my library) needs to be about twice as long, but it's quite serviceable, beginning with the Capetians, not scanting the early centuries, and finding a nice balance between social history and personalities.

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