3 Tips On How To Make It Through A Serious History Book

The Long March

A friend mentioned that he found my approach to reading history so unusual that I thought I might write about it, briefly.


When I first pick up a book, I ignore the words on the jacket flap. Those are usually the product of an overworked 23-year-old publication assistant. They are written up and sent near the end of the editing process to an exhausted author, who by this point is unnerved by the whole process of finishing a book, dealing with an editor, reviewing the galleys, fixing them, fixing the fixes, and so on, and by this point responds, "Sure, whatever." Instead, I first read the table of contents, to get an understanding of what the book aims to cover.

Next, I go to the acknowledgements. When I am reading 10 or 15 books on the same subject, such as American generalship in the Korean War, this is a fast way to see where the author is coming from. Who are his or her intellectual allies? Who gave this work their stamps of approval?

Third, I slowly read the entire index, start to finish. This shows in details what a book really covers. I want to know, Does it get to the five or six issues I am working on for the book I am writing? I will use the index entries to turn to parts of the book to see how it covers major controversies. How are they addressed? What are the author's sources? Does it address interesting recent scholarship? Last week I spent half a day doing this with a book I expect to be important to the book I am writing now, about the educations of the first four American presidents.

By this point, I usually have a pretty good idea of what the book is about. At this point, I will make a decision about whether to read it.

I usually am able to do this all in about an hour, unless the book is big and the index thorough. But on occasion I have taken half a day to do it.

OK, well it interested my friend.

(U.S. Army photo)

Army Futures Command will reach fully operational status just before the newest gem of the Army's modernization plan sees its first birthday on August 24th, officials announced on Tuesday.

AFC Commander Gen. John "Mike" Murray told reporters at a technologies showcase on Tuesday that the command will be fully operational on July 31st before showing off everything AFC personnel have been working on over the last year, from night vision goggles and robotic vehicles to new air- and missile-defense capabilities.

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(Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster)

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has been told to stop using the Marine Corps' emblem and the 1st Marine Division's motto in his campaign literature, Corps officials confirmed.

The Marine Corps Trademark Licensing Office has sent Hunter, a Marine veteran, a cease and desist letter telling him to quit using the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem along with the phrase, "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy," on a fundraising mailer that accuses his political opponent of having links to terrorism, NBC News first reported on Wednesday.

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(Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department)

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(Associated Press/The Fayetteville Observer/Andrew Craft)

An Army appeals court has rejected Bowe Bergdahl's claim that President Trump's public description of him as "a no-good traitor who should have been executed" and other comments on the disgraced soldier's case constituted unlawful command influence (UCI).

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(Department of Defense photos)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Marine Corps must update its parental-leave policies to give new moms and dads time with their newborns, the service's new top general wrote this week, including considering a full year's worth of leave for women who've had a child.

Marines should not be expected to choose between being the best parent possible and their career duties, Commandant Gen. David Berger wrote in his planning guidance released to the force Tuesday.

"These outcomes should never be in competition to the extent that success with one will come at the expense of the other," Berger wrote. "Our parental/maternity leave policies are inadequate and have failed to keep pace with societal norms and modern talent management practices."

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