March 6, 2008

The "Top" 50 Civil War Books of All Time

I love lists, especially those various Top 100 countdowns that VH1 Classic throws together. Now Civil War Interactive has released the results of their online poll to determine the "Top 50 Civil War Books of All Time." I'm not exactly sure what is meant by "top." Does that mean favorite, or best researched, or best prose? My guess is that for most voters, it was a healthy subjective dose of "most important" sprinkled with "personal favorite."

I find it interesting that, setting aside the government-produced O. R. and Stephen Crane's fictional novel, only 6 of the 50 titles were written by men who were actually there. Most in fact, are titles that were published within the past several decades. To be fair, I think there's a good reason for that: The advent of the computer age and ease of travel has made it far easier for today's scholars to access manuscript material than for the scholars of yesteryear.

All in all, it's an impressive list. In my opinion (and you know what they say about opinions), there are some glaring ommissions and some laughable inclusions. My one big complaint? The absence of How the North Won by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones, arguably one of the most important books on the Civil War in the last half-century. But even as a guy who is primarily interested in the military aspects of the war, I have to agree with Kevin Levin's post where he expresses some dismay at the lack of non-military titles.

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