Evaluating my current love affair with bookstores

Very early on in childhood, I can always remember be fascinated with bookstores. Although not always called the biggest reader, I loved perusing the stacks of historical non-fiction stacks and thinking about topics ranging from Lincoln’s Assassination to the roots of how civilizations fail. This was one of the factors that helped me become a history major, as it showed me the joy of learning the usually unknown details related to a topic or event. However, in the last year I have had to evaluate this love affair. This evaluation was caused the evolution of how I have learned to see history. I now know we as historians must always search to see something in its absolute entirety. While writing this, I laugh at having to bring up the story of “the Blind Men and the Elephant” as an analogy. In this story, several blind men are introduced an elephant. The men spread out and each feel a different part of the animal. Each man describes the elephant to be as the part that they are touching. One man describes an elephant to be “like a tree” as he feels the leg of the elephant and so on. We as readers must realize that authors want to give us a picture of an entire event. Additionally, this picture will naturally focus on some things and while passing over others. Quite simply, we gain interpretation of an event or topic as the author intended. Even though these books are non-fiction, they are secondary sources and are written in a way to steer us more towards the thinking of the author. This is what I am unfortunately having to reevaluate my so-called “love affair” with book stores. Currently, I stand for this several part position. First of all, historical non-fiction is extremely important in the world of historians. This is something I have never wavered on, as I think they are extremely beneficial for getting more people more knowledge and intrigued about anything in our field. I honestly believe if it wasn’t for historical non-fiction, I would not be a history major, as it was one of the first things to really continue my piqued interest as a young child. Secondly, I am not trying to say that we should never trust a secondary source, or only be overly wary of them. Historical non-fiction gives us a concise and organized picture of a topic and is a much easier to carry than most primary sources (scrolls are tough to carry, I have tried.) However, I am stating that we must realize that we are reading (or viewing) something that has been constructed out of a greater amount of information. With that being said, over the next few months I will be posting several reviews of books (or movies) as I progress through my summer reading list.

Posted in Some Of The History We Write, Some Simple Rants On History, Stories Of Events, Thoughts from Other Historians, Uncategorized

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