Friday Reads: Confederates in the Attic


“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 


This month the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club discussed an old, but timely book.   Just a couple days after Independence Day, we got together on a sunny morning to examine Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by West Tisbury Pulitzer prize winning author, Tony Horwitz.

The timeliness was two-fold:  most obviously, we were discussing one of the most important events in the history of the United States during our country’s birthday week, with arguably the most significant battle of that war, the battle of Gettysburg, having taken place from July 1 to July 3, 1863.  Horwitz writes, “Probably no half hour in American history had been more closely scrutinized than Pickett’s Charge,” which was the culminating clash at Gettysburg on July 3rd.   It was also timely in view of our current political climate in which state capitals and old academic institutions are reconsidering the flags they wave and the reputations of the historic people in whose honor they have named buildings, while we grapple with our country’s racism.

The main theme in Confederates in the Attic, which was published in 1998, is that the civil war is still festering under the surface, that ancestors of Confederate soldiers and people of the south in general feel that their “way of life” is still under siege.  They still want to assert their states’ rights and not be dictated to by big government.  Reading this book helped explain to some of us northerners in the group, how southerners felt then and feel now about their “way of life,” the meaning of the Confederate flag and what they were fighting for.  It also helped explain our recent presidential election.

There was a lot to discuss with this book.  As I tried to break up the group at 5 past the hour, regretting aloud that I had to pull the plug, someone called out that we could go on talking for another hour, which was answered with a resounding, ‘yes!’  So, if you are looking for a good book for your book group, I can recommend this one.  It will surely get you talking.  You can find our copy on the staff picks shelf.

Join us next month when we will discuss Rise of the Rocket Girls:  the women who propelled us, from missiles to the moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt.   Pick up a copy of the book at the reference desk and come to the discussion on Thursday, August 3 at 10:00 AM in the Hermann Foundation Meeting Room.  We look forward to another great discussion.

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