The week in books

August 28, 2008

Print for Victory: Book Publishing in England 1939-45 by Valerie Holman, associate research fellow in the Group for War and Culture Studies, University of Westminster.

British Library Publishing, £30.00, ISBN 9780712350013

"Continually surprising, Holman's diligent work contains one pleasingly spectacular misprint: 3,000 copies of 'a 250-word novel' required a ton of paper. Such extravagance would have landed a publisher in the Tower. Holman's use of art paper throughout this important book happily contrasts with today's tendency to use such rough-hewn stock that war economy standards appear luxurious."

Christopher Hawtree, The Daily Telegraph

The Fourteenth of July: And the Taking of the Bastille by Christopher Prendergast, professor of French, University of Cambridge. Profile Books, £15.99, ISBN 9781861979391

"Prendergast's exploration of this event has multiple lines of inquiry. He provides stimulating accounts of the day, its causes, aftermath and memorialisation, ranging from eyewitness narratives to scholarly discussion of the role of the Estates-General in provoking the crisis. This is a thought-provoking introduction to a key event in European history."

Jerome de Groot, Financial Times

The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism by Ron Suskind, distinguished visiting scholar, Dartmouth College. Simon & Schuster, £17.99, ISBN 9781847371171

"(Suskind) is a romantic, a writer who believes that his country has betrayed its past, its values and its moral compass by failing to tell the truth about the war. My reservation lies in his 'new realism' style. These are real people. The unsourced details ... do not add authenticity but subtract it. How does Suskind know a CIA agent's coffee is 'now lukewarm'? Does it matter if he fabricates colour? No, but what else does he fabricate?"

Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times

Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning by John Lukacs, emeritus professor of history, Chestnut Hill College. Basic Books, £12.99, ISBN 9780465002870

"Nine years ago John Lukacs published an excellent little book ... Now Lukacs has given us an even smaller book that says little that he did not tell us before. Only on the very last page is it revealed that this opuscule belongs to a 'Basic Ideas' series in which 'a leading authority offers a concise biography of a text that transformed its world, and ours'. Fair enough, so long as we know what to expect, but it is pretty thin stuff."

Michael Howard, The Spectator

God's Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland by Micheal O Siochru, member of the Centre for War Studies, Trinity College Dublin. Faber, £14.99, ISBN 9780571241217

"Given the dominant mood of contemporary Irish historiography, one almost expects Micheal O Siochru's forensic and fastidious account to conclude that Old Ironsides had a heart of gold. The fascination of the book is that, even when it is put through the wringer of low-key, unemotional and carefully documented analysis, the myth turns out to be mostly true."

Fintan O'Toole, The Observer.

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