“Books are humanity in print. Books are carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.”
– Barbara Tuchman
I’ve always loved history, especially when presented in the palatable manner that Tuchman had for the topic. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, her work has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, led by her award winner The Guns of August (a prelude to and first month of World War I), and her 1970 biography on the World War II General Joseph Stilwell.
In 1978, she wrote the wonderful A Distant Mirror about the calamitous 14th Century but considered reflective of the 20th, especially in its horrors of war. That book, too, led the New York Times bestseller list and was a finalist for yet another Pulitzer. Tuchman began her writing career in the 1930s as a journalist and in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, became one of the few women – along with Martha Gellhorn working as a war correspondent – reporting for The Nation.
In 1980, not long before her death, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Tuchman focused her lecture on “Mankind’s Better Moments,” many of which appeared in the 20 books she wrote for us as a lasting historical legacy.
“I want the reader to turn the page,” she said, “and keep on turning until the end.”
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