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Book Reviews

Some of these were written for various mailing lists, and are not indicative of my best writing. I am slowly adding short and not terribly formal book reviews to this section -- reviews of books that I have read and of which I either recommend, or that are important scholarly works work reading.  (Yes, that means I'm not wild about the writing quality, or it is well-written but aimed at a scholarly audience.)


Compiled by Professor Anders Henriksson, Non Campus Mentis: World History According to College Students (New York: Workman Publishing, 2001).

You may have seen some choice examples that Professor Henriksson has shared with the world over the last ten years; here is a compilation of side-splittingly funny sentences from student exams, both from Henriksson's students, as well as schools across North America.  What adds to the humor of this is that Henriksson has merged all these uproariously painful sentences into a comprehensive history of the world.

I am not allowed to read this book after my wife and son go to bed; my laughter, in any part of the house, will wake them up.  A few examples:

 History, a record of things left behind by past generations, started in 1815.  Thus we should try to view historical times as the behind of the present.  This gives incite into the anals of the past.
Prehistory, a subject mainly studied by anthroapologists, was prior to the year 1500.  When animals were not available the people ate nuts and barrys.  Social division of labour began when a tribe would split into hunters and togetherers.  Crow Magnum man had a special infinity for this.  Advances were most common during the intergalactic periods.
The pyramids were large square triangles built in the desert.  O'Cyrus, a god who lived in a piramid, would give you the afterlife if your sole was on straight.

Members of the upper class were able to live posthumorusly thorugh the art and facts buried with them.  Eventually the Egyptians drowned in the desert.
This was the beginning of Empire when Europeans felt the need to reach out and smack someone.
Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Granola, a part of Spain now known as Mexico and the Gulf States.
The Catholic church sold indulgences as a form of remission control.  Luthar was into reorientation mutation.  An angry Martin Luther nailed ninety-fve theocrats to a church door.  The Pope's response was to declare Luther hereditary.

Okay, if you don't get a chuckle of those examples--perhaps it is time for a basic book on world history.  But you're a smart person, or you wouldn't reading anything I wrote, right?  My wife doesn't find this funny at all, because she sees a generation  with such limited spelling and knowledge that they don't realize that Granola isn't the name of a city in Spain, and Mexico was never in Spain, much less the Gulf States.

I take a more magnanimous view of this collection of disastrous sentences.  These may be the better students: the ones that bothered to take notes in class, and who have no idea how to spell "Osiris," thus making the Egyptian god of the dead into an Irishman, and who think that some of our earliest modern ancestors must have been big guys indeed--Magnum sized, even.  It is also apparent that a surprising number of North Americans believe in continental drift of heretofore astonishing velocity; many of these students believe that Australia was part of an empire with Hungary, and made war on the British Empire.  At a minimum, it is a reminder that college students are now a post-literate generation, obtaining most of their knowledge about the past from radio, TV, and the spoken word.  Doesn't that make you so happy?

World War II

Review of Target Hitler

Review of Conscience in Revolt: Sixty-Four Stories of Resistance in Germany, 1933-45

Contemporary America

Review of Culture Wars

Review of What Cops Know

Cultural History

Review of Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America

Black History

Review of Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier

Review of Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South