Reviewing the books in my library as part of this downsizing project has reacquainted me with several of my books that I had not picked up in quite a while. I am looking now at three hardbound volumes by historian Barbara Tuchman. These books are well made, feel good to lift and look good—a credit to the publisher and author alike.
Alfred A. Knopf published Tuchman’s hardbound books. The hard covers are cloth wrapped and the author’s initials, BWT, are embossed in the center of the front cover. The high quality paper is thick and easy to leaf through. The books are a joy to lift and handle. They were produced with care and have retained the traditional colophon as the last page of the book.
Tuchman was a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, whose popular books often were among the New York Times best sellers. Her books were displayed prominently in the independent bookstores that I frequented. The three books that I bought were selected because the title caught my attention and the liner notes intrigued me. I read the first few paragraphs of the first chapter and took the book home. Perhaps that is not a great way to select a book to read, because when I started reading in earnest I discovered that Tuchman’s books are thick, complex and full of detail that make it hard for me to follow her argument. I literally got lost in the detail.
What to do? Perhaps I’ll look at each book before deciding to keep or discard it.
Her anti-war meditation The March of Folly—From Troy to Vietnam is the best reading of the three, but it only made me sad to recall the folly of our war in Vietnam. The book now is largely superseded by events and the extended folly of our ever-present war efforts. I can part with this book, but can we as a nation part with our warlike past?
Tuchman’s The First Salute—A view of the American Revolution is an interesting take on the Revolution that focuses of the role of international commerce in the development of the United States. The front cover has a beautiful picture of a two-masted schooner of the type that sailed from New England in the 18th century. The cloth covers are blue and behind the cover are maps of the trade routes (front) and a revolutionary war battle march (back). When I opened the book to the center I saw color pictures of Revolutionary War figures including George Washington. This book is definitely a keeper.
My third Tuchman book is A Distant Mirror—The Calamitous 14th Century”. The book invents the personage of Sire de Coucy, a French aristocrat with a towering castle at the very entrance to Paris. Reading this book was a great introduction to life and politics in the 14th century. However, I can’t imagine rekindling enough interest to reread the entire book, and, though indexed like most scholarly books, the volume doesn’t lend itself to browsing. Out it goes.
I’ll keep 1st Salute and let the other to go.
The deaccession count: Posts 15, Books 79.