Monday, August 27, 2018

New Appreciation of Biographies

I have reviewed a couple of biographies of Civil War-era people this year and the book I’m currently reading is another biography. This is not new - I’ve read many biographies over the years, but reading these so closely together has somehow made me appreciate this genre better.

This is all an accident, certainly unplanned on my part, but if it is good fortune.  Perhaps I am lucky just to have picked 3 especially good books to read, but reading these - one on Basil Duke, one on Mary Lincoln, and the third I just started a couple of days ago - has been a great experience, helping renew my enthusiasm for reading, which I had not recently done as frequently as in the past. Reading so much about these individual lives helps me see the war as more than just military strategy and tactics, and even helps me as I also work on my own family history, a narrative I am attempting to create. History is about events and dates, but also about people, including non-famous happenings in their lives. I see that more clearly now.

I always have a few books set aside as “to be read,” as I suspect  many Cavil War enthusiasts do, but do I now change what books I might conquer next? I was thinking about reading a military title next, but should I find another biography instead? I did receive a biography a couple of weeks ago. It is of someone who died years before the Civil War, but whose life and influence helped shaped the nation in the decades before secession and fort Sumter. Maybe I should pick it as my next read. 

It is an interesting question for me to ponder. I have really enjoyed these biographies, but should I focus on the actual war and the politics surrounding it? The Duke book did involve some military matters of course, and other biographies can too, but the writing in a biography is different than in a military study. 

I am glad to have such choices and the ability to express and explore my thoughts in a platform like this. Maybe reading about the lives of other people can help me view my life, or my ancestor’s lives, differently.

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