The Civil War in 50 Objects

July 17, 2013 History, non-fiction 8

16158513Title: The Civil War in 50 Objects
Editor: Harold Holzer
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★★
Fun Fact: Mississippi didn’t ratify the 13th amendment until 1995.
Review Summary: Both a very broad look at the feel of the Civil War era and a very personal look at the lives of individuals, this book really had it all.

This book takes a fascinating approach to civil war history, progressing generally chronologically but with each chapter focused on a particular artifact. As the goodreads description states, the objects include everything “from a soldier’s diary with the pencil still attached to John Brown’s pike, the Emancipation Proclamation, a Confederate Palmetto flag, and the leaves from Abraham Lincoln’s bier”. Each chapter talks about both broader themes and personal stories that the artifacts connect to.

At first, I was hesitant to pick this up for fear it would be a dry cataloguing of objects, but I heard about it from several people and decided it was worth a try. As you can tell from my rating, I was very glad I gave it a chance! I could tell from the moment I opened the book that it was going to be good. First of all, this is just a beautiful book. The paper felt and smelled nice; the pictures were gorgeous; and the font was large and easy to read. As I read my way to a deeper analysis, I was also impressed by the organization. Although broad themes relating to the entirety of the war were discussed for most objects, the flow still felt chronological. While a timeline of battles wasn’t the point of this book, I did end the book with a better feel for the order of the events of the civil war.

My favorite thing about this book was the combination of looking at the big picture and at individual stories. I’ve recently read some books that really capture the feel of an era (The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan EnglandAn Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England) and I love that. It’s amazing to feel (correctly or not!) that you’ve begun to understand what it would have been like to live in a particualr time period. This book gave me that feeling. I especially liked the revelation of the issues that would have been on people’s minds at the time. I also love non-fiction that focuses on the human element, since this is almost universily interesting no matter the official topic of a book. The stories attached to each object in this collection were touching and contributed a personal side to this story. Highly recommended.

Amazon|Goodreads

8 Responses to “The Civil War in 50 Objects”

  1. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    I can’t even tell you how badly I want to read this! Ahhh! I just know I’ll be in nerd heaven! I’d really like to get A History of the World in 100 Objects as well. I feel a book buying binge coming on 😉

    • DoingDewey

      I would highly recommend it! I’m already pretty sure this will end up on my list of best non-fiction of the year. I hadn’t heard of A History of the World in 100 Objects, but it gets such good review on goodreads that I’m putting it on my TBR list too 🙂

  2. Reem @ I Read And Tell

    This sounds completely awesome! A few years ago, I wanted to research Civil War, and so this book would’ve come really handy! I really like the title. and the way the story is laid!

    • DoingDewey

      I like it too! I was worried at first that it would be dry and instead it turned out to be a great way to get interesting personal stories 🙂

  3. Brooke

    Like Jennifer, I think this book sounds like nerd heaven. And I’m nothing if not a nerd! Definitely adding to my TBR. Need some fresh new nonfiction and the Civil War always fascinates me.

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