Coming home from 17 days in East Africa last month, jazzed by how fascinating our visit had been and conscious of how little I know about Africa, I scooped up Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Shadow of the Sun while wandering around the Arusha (Tanzania) Airport. What a stroke of luck!
In my experience, choosing a book title is an agonizing process. The title must perform several functions at once:
- It must give the reader some idea what is inside the covers, and do so (as my spiritual adviser Paul Dickson insists) at a distance of ten feet from the bookstore shelf.
- These days, it must also do so from a computer screen, since purchasers may never remove their fannies from their ergonomically-correct desk chairs.
- It must be catchy; that is, it must stick in the reader’s mind.
Right now, I am in the midst of two long and highly acclaimed long books. I’ve been reading a print edition of Ron Chernow’s Washington, and I’ve been listening to an audio version of Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello. Chernow’s tome has already won the American History award, and likely will pick a few more over the next several months. Gordon-Reed’s book won, among other prizes, the Pulitzer. And they sold lots and lots of books.
I wish both were a good bit shorter.
As I read (really, listened to as a book-on-CD) a recent short biography of Winston Churchill by Paul Johnson, I found myself thinking about the two historian-leaders of the modern era in the West — Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt. Both were remarkable leaders and remarkable historians.
In September, the AIW Freedom to Write Fund will attempt to organize and launch an on-line book review. We need web designers, editors, enthusiastic readers, and — of course — reviewers. The following notice went out to late last week to invite participants.
A message to all AIW Members from David Stewart, President of the Freedom to Write Fund, AIW’s 501c3 foundation.
The Cure for the Vanishing Book Review!
Have you noticed that it’s more and more difficult to find thoughtful reviews of interesting books?
The current issue of Reviews in American History includes a review by R. Owen Williams of my book about the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, Impeached. I hasten to note that I have no recollection of ever meeting Mr. Williams, a Yale history Ph.D. and the new president of Transylvania University (no, that’s not where Dracula matriculated; I imagine President Williams will tire of that line pretty fast).
At 10:15 a.m. on this Sunday, March 28, C-SPAN2’s Book TV is scheduled to run an interview I did with them at the Virginia Festival of the Book last weekend in Charlottesville. The subject is Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy.