Reviewing two books here, one of which I have a lot to say about and do, the other I have little and do not…
Battle Cry of Freedom 5/5
Unquestionably the ur-text on why the Civil War happened, McPherson examines all angles, the social, political and military. Not a stone is left unturned. Yet this book is remarkably readable. Very few parts of it dragged and the ones that did were the ones that I wasn’t particularly interested in in the first place. McPherson doesn’t set out to create a focused polemic, rather he wants to let all the disparate parts do the speaking for themselves. But he does a great job of tracing how these parts came together for war and, ultimately, emancipation.
The most important thing about this book: you can’t come away from reading it, no matter what your perspective or bias, and conclude that this war was about anything less than slavery. Especially considering the events that led to secession, there’s just no other way to understand what the nation was fighting over. McPherson does a great job showing how the groundswell of tension around slavery, made more acute by expansion to the west, was destined to culminate in explosion. It had little to do with rights and everything to with racist economics.
I don’t think you need to be a history buff to enjoy this. McPherson’s work is so eminently readable that one can simply get lost in it, even with only a modicum of interest in the subject.
The Golden Gizmo 2/5
In his book Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?, noted baseball scribe Bill James has a chapter addressing two banned players. To Pete Rose, he devotes about 10 pages. To Shoeless Joe Jackson, he devotes one sentence.
I think about that now. So here’s my one sentence: It’s not good and only recommended for Thompson completists.