TERRE HAUTE —
Time for my annual “Spring Cleaning” column, in which I address reader issues and answer “Frequently Asked Questions.”
Issue 1: My one reader issue this year is still the same.
I appreciate the volume of reader mail I get, and I pride myself on answering every single one, good or bad, agree or disagree, in awe of my range of knowledge or in disbelief at the depths of my ignorance.
But my mail volume is such that I can only answer each reader once. I cannot, as some readers wish, get into a back-and-forth debate on every column.
My suggestion is that readers looking for a dialogue, including the bloggers who are now posting my columns on their blogs, start posting their comments about my column on my Facebook page or website, www.historylessons.net.
There I would be most happy to conduct, and engage in, a dialogue.
FAQ 1: My one FAQ this year is also the same as every year. The books from the past year that I recommend are: 1493 by Charles Mann.
It is the story of the “Columbian Exchange,” in which, in the wake of Columbus’ discovery of the New World, goods and services, but also diseases and plagues and new ideas and beliefs, were spread around the globe, altering human history. It’s thoroughly researched and wonderfully written.
“Bloody Crimes” by James Swanson alternately describes Abe Lincoln’s 13-day, 11-city funeral procession from Washington, D.C., to his home in Springfield, Ill., and the hunt for the fugitive Confederate President Jefferson Davis, whom many thought (incorrectly) ordered Lincoln’s assassination. Both stories are fascinating, and Swanson is a fine writer.
“James Madison” by Richard Brookhiser. Many historians consider Madison our greatest lawgiver. Brookhiser also considers him our first great politician. Brookhiser breaks no new ground, but it is a short, well-written look at “The Father of the Constitution.” And, hey, it’s about (my hero) James Madison.
“Destiny of the Republic” by Candice Millard. Billed as “A tale of madness, medicine and the murder of a president,” it describes President James A. Garfield’s assassination, the descent into insanity of his assassin, Charles Guiteau, the incompetence and hubris of the doctors who could have saved Garfield but instead hastened his death, and the desperate attempts by inventor Alexander Graham Bell to build a machine that could detect where the bullet was lodged in Garfield’s body. It reads almost like a thriller.
“Bruce’s History Lessons: The First Five Years,” by me. I admit, a shameless plug, this collection of the first five years of my newspaper columns can also be found on my website, or by simply googling my name, Bruce G. Kauffmann.
There, the place looks cleaner! I’ll be back next spring.
Bruce G. Kauffmann’s can be reached email@example.com.