Our 5 Most Popular Posts: April 2023

  • May 2, 2023

We love every piece we run. There are no winners or losers. But all kidding aside, here are April’s winners.

Our 5 Most Popular Posts: April 2023

  1. A Madman’s Will: John Randolph, 400 Slaves, and the Mirage of Freedom by Gregory May (Liveright). Reviewed by Eugene L. Meyer. “Was John Randolph — the fiery and erratic U.S. senator from Virginia who sometimes believed in abolition and sometimes didn’t — a rational man? Or was he legally insane when he granted freedom to his 383 enslaved people? That’s the question at the heart of Gregory May’s intriguing A Madman’s Will, which adds fresh scholarship to what Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal once called ‘the American Dilemma.’ But it’s not the only question. Of equal and more abiding importance: What happened to the newly emancipated after they reached the promised land of Ohio, an alleged ‘free’ state? Nothing good, it turns out.”

  2. 76 Hours: A Novel of Tarawa by Larry Alexander (Blackstone Publishing). Reviewed by Tom Glenn. “The recounting of the battle alternates between U.S. and Japanese viewpoints. As the story progresses and the Americans gain a foothold, the switching back and forth speeds up. By the end of the book, the perspective shifts occur with every paragraph. The casualties of the real-life battle of Tarawa were horrendous. On the U.S. side, roughly 1,000 servicemen died, and more than 2,000 were wounded. On the Japanese side, only 17 survived; the dead numbered in the thousands. Many of those Japanese died by their own hand, suicide being preferable to surrender. All told, approximately 4,690 of the atoll’s defenders perished during the three-day fight.”

  3. The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England, 1603-1689 by Jonathan Healey (Knopf). Reviewed by Allison Thurman. “Eventually, the rising population led to land scarcity, lower wages, and a correspondingly higher cost of living. Combined with monopolies on major industries like soap, these burdens, by the 1630s, created an educated but unemployed class unable to get ahead. ‘For young men who had expected to become fathers and husbands — householding patriarchs — the failure to do so generated frustration, resentment, and anger,’ writes Healey. With the levying of taxes to pay for a war to enforce religious conformities already under debate, the stage was set for conflict.”

  4. The 2023 Washington Writers Conference. This year’s conference — which happens May 12-13 and features authors Dolen Perkins-Valdez, S.A. Cosby, Evan Thomas, Alma Katsu, Anthony Marra, and dozens of others — is going to be our best one yet! Haven’t registered yet? What are you waiting for?

  5. Christendom: The Triumph of a Religion, AD 300-1300 by Peter Heather (Knopf). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “Peter Heather’s history of Christianity through AD 1300 dispenses with the usual two-century run-up of wandering apostles, catacombs, and lions in the colosseum. Rather, in Christendom, the author takes up his story during the religion’s organizational adolescence in Rome and Constantinople, those twin centers of imperial rule. In his account, it was a time when Christianity was enjoying increasing favor in government circles and its earlier hagiographic pyrotechnics had faded. What was left were thorny doctrinal debates and the occasional self-asserting rebellion of a patriarch or a distant faith community.”

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