Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Stuff to Read

I'm on my way to the American Historical Association annual meeting in Chicago (I'm going to be pretty scarce, but if you want to connect, track me down via email, my cell number if you have it, or in the comments and we can get a drink) but one of my resolutions for the next year is to post more frequently here at dcat. In that spirit, here are a few things you should read:

One of the most celebrated books of recent months is John Lewis Gaddis' long-awaited biography of George Kennan, which came out at the end of the year and will stand as a landmark work for the next generation. Of the many reviews of the book that you will want to read (reviews being vital to larger conversation that books should inspire) put Lon Hamby's Wall Street Journal review at the top of your list.

And since you're in a reading mood, go read Tom Bruscino's excellent Claremont Review of Books essay on Vietnam War historiography. You'll find much to agree with and possibly as much to dispute, the sign of a provocative argument. (Hint: He's not a fan of the baby boomers.)

The end of the year produces more than enough best-of lists to fill up your time. I thought Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2011 would have a little something for everyone -- loads of pretentious rock-crit scribbling for those of you not inclined toward quite so much obscurantism, and a pretty good list of stuff to track down for those on the other side. I feel as if I buy loads of music and try to keep up on as much new stuff as possible and I only own 6 of the top 50. I'm sure I'll catch up (I'm sometimes a somewhat late adopter) but I like lists like this because I get sick of hearing those regular pronouncements about the death of music.

Finally, when does a writer become a writer? It's a good question, especially for those of us who consider ourselves writers and who don't fully earn money from our publications. Seek solace in the fact that the majority of us have to bring in dirty cash money through more than the power of our words.

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