I’m a writer, podcaster, and bookseller whose ultimate goal (besides being a roadie for the E Street Band) is to make reading, writing, and books in general as popular in Texas as high school football. It may take a while.
Five Myths About the American Civil War
There is no complete count of the number of books written about the American Civil War, though a rough estimate puts the total at close to one hundred thousand; the number of articles online surely numbers in the millions. This is not surprising, given that more Americans died in the four-year conflict (620,000) than nearly all other American wars combined and the fact that scars from the war continue to plague the nation more than 150 years later.
Seven Books I'd Want With Me on a Desert Island
I own a lot of books, and I mean a lot. I was forced to confront just how many recently when a friend threw out a writing prompt, challenging everyone to pick the seven books they would want with them if stranded on a desert island. I expected this to be as brutal as a similar one I did about eight songs I take to a desert island, but it actually wasn’t. Most will be obvious to anyone who has read my earlier articles, with a curveball or two thrown in for good measure.
Looking for a Brief History of the Papacy? 'Ten Popes Who Shook the World' is the Place to Start
If you are interested in the history of the popes of the Catholic Church, the reading options can be daunting, and not just because there have been 266 of them over the past 2,000 years. The sheer size of the volumes are enough to give the most committed reader pause: George Weigel’s definitive biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, runs an eye-watering 1,056 pages, and Peter Seewald’s two-volume Benedict XVI: A Life is even longer at 1,088 pages. Elisabetta Pique’s 2015 biography, Pope Francis: Life and Revolution, seems tiny by comparison at 312 pages, though it only covers the first year of his papacy.
Five Classic Movie Roles That Famous Actors Foolishly Turned Down
Tales of actors who turned down major film roles are a staple of Hollywood lore. The claim that Ronald Reagan was the first choice for the role of Rick in Casablanca before it eventually went to Humphrey Bogart has persisted for decades; unfortunately for those who love the “what if?” game, it’s just not true (see Snopes thoroughly debunk it here). There are, however, a plethora of cases where the actor you know from an iconic role was not the first choice.
Celebrities Need to Stop Threatening to Leave America; No Other Country Wants Them Anyway
Celebrities threatening to leave the United States if an election or issue doesn’t go the way they want it to has become commonplace over the past two decades. The first I remember personally was Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder announcing he would depart the country if George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 (a quick Google search reveals that Barbra Streisand said the same thing, but Eddie’s a bigger deal for me). British singer Seal threatened to leave the US if John McCain beat Barack Obama in 2008, but since he’s British he’d basically just be going home. Susan Sarandon said the same thing.
Three Myths About the Spanish-American War
“It has been a splendid little war.” — U.S. Secretary of State John Hay in a letter to Theodore Roosevelt, 1898 The Spanish-American War was a brief conflict that is mostly forgotten today, but this short war (lasting roughly 16 weeks) changed the fortunes of two global powers, marking the rise of one and the rapid decline of another. Let’s examine a few of the facts and myths about America’s first truly global war.
My Completely Subjective Ranking of the 11 Star Wars Films
I have resisted doing any in-depth articles on the Star Wars films for one simple reason: the fandom of this iconic series is divided in a way that makes Yankees fans and Red Sox fans look like long-time lovers by comparison. And the divide is not just over the Original/Prequel/Sequel Trilogy issue; the debate among the Sequel Trilogy fans will explode on Twitter at any given moment over something as simple as the statement “I’m pretty sure Rian Johnson is a human being.”
Seven Ways to Save the Star Wars Franchise Before It’s Too Late
My friend Eric Pierce recently wrote an excellent article lamenting the sad, stale state of the Star Wars franchise that I have been thinking about ever since. Why, with the ability to lure in the best writing talent on the planet, are they still just retelling the same stories, over and over, ad infinitum, ad nauseum? Was there a Constitutional amendment I’m unaware of that says every new Star Wars project must tie back in some way to Luke Skywalker and his Chanel boots?
Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’: A Memoir of the Lost Generation
Every year I reread three books: The Razor’s Edge, The Shadow of the Wind, and Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his Paris years, A Moveable Feast. As I was starting my annual journey with Papa yesterday, I wanted to look back at my review of the book, only to find that somehow, unforgivably, I had not written one. That oversight gets corrected today, because this is a book everyone should read, especially if you’re a writer, a Hemingway fan, or interested in the Lost Generation period of the 1920s.
We Need a National Standard for the Teaching of High School History
Many people naturally assume that the teaching of history in schools is standardized across the United States, but this is, in reality, not the case at all. While all students are required to take American History classes both to graduate and to be accepted into a university, what is taught in those classes can vary significantly both in different parts of the country and even within individual states. This is because each of the 50 states sets certain academic standards, including the crucial decision about which textbooks will be used and what information those books contain. Each local school district makes further decisions for their city or district, and each teacher brings their own personal beliefs and biases to the classroom.