Some of the Nevermore readers enjoy challenging topics and what could be more challenging than changing the world? That was the topic of a new book The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World by Chris and Ted Stewart which postulates seven events which, they believe, were pivotal to creating free societies. These events include the discovery of the New World, the victory of the Greeks over the Persians at Thermopylae and Salamis and the failure of the Mongols to conquer Europe. Agree or disagree, the book serves as a good jumping off point to discuss other crucial points in history.
The American Civil War might well be the choice of many, and with this being the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, there are many, many new books out on the topic. One such is 1861: Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart which examines the start of the war as seen by lesser known folk in New York or Maryland instead of through major politicians and generals. Do you know who Elmer Ellsworth was? You will after you read this book! Goodheart is a journalist and historian who revisits events we think we know and shows them from more of a cultural perspective, as people are forced to re-examine what they believe and why.
Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson by Linda Williams is an examination of the way race has been portrayed in America. Most of the emphasis is on film portrayals going back to “Birth of a Nation” but Williams includes the media coverage of the Simpson trial in her analysis. She is particularly interested in showing how stereotypical images have been used to promote harmony as well as segregation or reinforce prejudices.
World War II is considered by many to be another crucial point in history. There have been numerous books on that topic, fiction and non-fiction. Most of them try to answer the question, “How did people like Hitler and Mussolini come to power?” or “How could the concentration camps and death camps have existed?” One recent children’s book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, has made quite an impact, proving the lasting fascination with that period of history.
Of course, September 11, 2001 is often cited as another tipping point, a time when the world changed forever. The question was asked, “Where are the books about 9/11?” Oh, there are many non-fiction books and even some novels which tackle the terrible events of that day, but so far there hasn’t been a defining novel about 9/11 the way that Red Badge of Courage defined the Civil War or All Quiet on the Western Front defined World War I.
Fiction books using 9/11 as a backdrop include Falling Man by Don DeLillo, Terrorist: A Novel by John Updike, Karen Kingsbury’s Tuesday Morning series, Netherland by Joseph O’Neill and Absent Friends by S. J. Rozan.
What events do you see as tipping points?