Weekend Reading Assignments: Superhuman Runners, Vexing Virtues and the Civil War
Book recommendations from the staff of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
So run to the nearest bookstore, assuming you still have one that hasn’t recently gone under, and buy Born to Run. Or walk, it doesn’t really matter to me. If you do the former, however, follow McDougall’s lead, and don’t do so in overpriced, moon-bounce New Balances.
The year is still young – or not yet middle-aged – but I doubt I’ll read a better new book in 2011 than Eric Felten’s Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue. I’d say this even if I weren’t bound by loyalty to my friend Felten. He’s done something that’s hard to describe, since I’ve never read a book quite like it. It’s a moral exploration, a collection of poignant and funny stories, a brief sociological history, and a primer on how to think ethically and carefully and honestly. Every page has at least one witty insight that will make you stop reading and look briefly into the middle distance. And it’s a page-turner, I don’t know how. Perfect for Father’s Day, too, by the way, at which time the year will be officially middle-aged.
I am occasionally asked to recommend a one-volume account of the Civil War, and invariably suggest James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom or Shelby Foote's three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative. There are other popular accounts of the war as a whole -- Bruce Catton's series, as well as multi-volume works by Allan Nevins and James Ford Rhodes and other historians of yesteryear -- but from my perspective, the best account of the defining conflict of American history is Douglas Southall Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command (1942).