Page by Page: Book Reviews

The Mystery of Christmas Revealed!

Michael P. Foley’s Why We Kiss Under the Mistletoe is not a history of Christmas but rather a series of chapters broken into vignettes, anecdotes, and historical tidbits about the holiday, ranging from food and drink associated with Christmas to St. Nicholas’s partners, and other saints who also were gift-givers. All of this is written in a highly accessible way that will surely charm or at least entertain a reader in the same way that a book like One Hundred Amazing Facts About, well, whatever might be a pleasant diversion, even as the book tries to remind the faithful that Christmas is no mere diversion, but about God’s engagement with the world or God’s willingness to engage human creation, which is worth taking seriously even for those who do not take this particular story seriously or do not take belief in God seriously.

The Roots and Persistence of the Idea of Decline

This book is as much a manifesto as a work of history. The manifesto is timely, important, and utterly persuasive. The history is a bit more complicated, but nevertheless offers an eloquent explanation of much that happened in the long history of Rome and its empire. Watts follows a long series of modern thinkers in […]

Remembering “The Poor Indian”

With his new biography of Jim Thorpe, David Maraniss has once more written a book about a seemingly transcendent sports figure. Thorpe is widely recognized as one of, if not the, greatest athlete of the twentieth century.

Memory, Politics, and the Fight Over History

The volume makes it hard not to sympathize with Tibetans, but to her credit, Tsering Woeser makes it clear at several points that Tibetans were not simply victims of Chinese authorities; they were also guilty of transgressions in the Cultural Revolution. Her larger point may be that humans in any group are capable of acting in ways that can shock others, and even themselves.

The Only Woman in the Baseball Hall of Fame

With little of Effa’s own words and personal details, the book is less a biography than an overview of how systemic racism played out in her childhood, in her young adulthood living in Harlem during the Renaissance and in the arc of the Negro Leagues. Despite the lack of Effa’s voice, however, this is a story worth telling and even more worth reading for a young audience.

How to Write a Popular Baseball History Book

Make no mistake. Our Team is a wonderful book in this sense. It is easy to read. It tells an interesting story built on thorough research in newspapers and secondary sources, skillful organization, pleasant writing, and narrative drive. Epplin gives each of his four main characters equal attention in an account carefully woven out of the cloth of several seasons. For the baseball fan, either serious or casual, even if one’s favorite team is not the Indians, this book can provide several hours of pleasure.

The War in Spain Recalled in the Main as Heroic and Inhumane

Much of The Lincoln Brigade involves actual warfare, action scenes that have little to do with the heroism of Boy Commandos but a lot to do with the grimness of EC war comics. Blood flows. Victories are followed by defeats, and by the end of the comic, we approach the present with old men’s memories.