Thursday, December 3, 2009

Making our mark in the history section

One thing I've enjoyed tremendously in the past few years is watching our history lists -- already strong to begin with -- develop so substantially. Some nice affirmation of that came recently, when the History Book Club put together its list of the top 100 history books of the year. Ten of their selections are Perseus books - and six are from Basic alone:

9. The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness, by Harlow Ungar (Da Capo, 9780306818080)
14. Amelia Earhart: The Thrill of It, by Susan Wels (Running Press, 9780762437634)
21. Marcus Aurelius: A Life, by Frank McLynn (Da Capo, 9780306818301)
28. America, Empire of Liberty, by David Reynolds (Basic, 9780465015009)
42. China: A History, by John Keay (Basic, 9780465015801)
45. Jerusalem’s Traitor: Josephus, Masada, and the Fall of Judea, by Desmond Seward (Da Capo, 9780306818073)
68. The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919, by Mark Thompson (Basic, 9780465013296)
69. Fatal Journey: The Final Journey of Henry Hudson, by Peter Mancall (Basic, 9780465005116)
76. Leningrad: State of Siege, by Michael Jones (Basic, 9780465011537)
96. The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe, by Andrew Wheatcroft (Basic, 9780465013746)

That list is not without its disappointments - I shake my head in wonder that neither Eduardo Galeano's Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (Nation, 9781568584232) nor Eugene Rogan's The Arabs: A History (Basic, 9780465071005) made the list; both are among the richest, most memorable history books I've encountered in a long while.

And I'm also of the mind that The White War should have been much closer to the top than #68 (picky, picky!) -- you may recall the enthusiasm with which I presented it (and even wrote about it in this forum). It vied with Mirrors for my favorite book on the Spring 2009 list. Everyone thought I was crazy for pushing it -- and I'll agree, unless your author's name is Hemingway Italy in World War One is not the easiest sell -- but this is a fantastic, enriching read. When a customer asks for a history book for that close relation who's already read all the big ones, I promise you this will satisfy.

But why quibble overmuch? It's lovely to see such recognition.

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