Today’s post is was inspired by the interview with James McPherson in the New York Times book review last weekend. I reviewed that interview in yesterday’s post. Today, I’ve interviewed myself, and I encourage you to interview yourself too, either in the comments below, on your own blog, and/or on Twitter. (Be sure to tag me @Historiann and #historiannchallenge.)
What books are currently on your night stand?
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, and some travel guides for southern California.
What was the last truly great book you read?
If you mean a work of history, I’d say Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America by Kathleen Brown. That’s a book that makes a powerful argument about status and cleanliness, and how women became responsible for both of these things in their families and in the wider world. It’s a book that has tremendous implications about the ways in which body care became intensely gendered over the longue durée, which is something I think about whenever I see a housekeeper, a janitor, an employee of a nursing home or rehab facility, or a home health aide.
Who are the best historians writing today?
In no particular order: Lynn Hunt, Jill Lepore, Annette Gordon-Reed, Natalie Zemon Davis, and Judith Bennett. I could go on, but just reading those authors will keep anyone busy for a few years.
What’s the best book ever written about American history?
That’s a ridiculous question. What the hell is a “best book ever?” What do you think I’m going to say–France and England in North America by Francis Parkman? Best book in the last century? Best book since 1776? Doesn’t the answer vary according to the fashion of the times and our own tastes? History is constantly being revised and updated by each succeeding generation of historians, so no book can ever be a “best book ever” for more than a few years. Continue reading