Explaining the Challenge

What is the history reading challenge?

The challenge I originally set myself is to read at least twenty-four books (two every month!) covering historical and cultural topics from each of the seven continents in 2013.

I still hold to the same standards as I did in 2013. Books can be not strictly history, but they must be nonfiction: biographies are okay if suitable in scope, but historical fiction doesn’t count (no slight intended, Outlander fans). Also, life is too short to waste it on somebody’s political agenda, lousy prose or lazy research. Consequently, I will post only about books I think have some merit. Unfinished books don’t count in the tally.

Why do it?

My formal education in history ended at the U.S. borders and went from Amerigo Vespucci to the American Civil War. This tiny sliver of recorded history reflected the legacy of the outdated, isolationist worldview my school district propagated. Foreign nationals I’ve met whose level of education is similar to my own have a much more complete sense of how the world fits together. It embarrasses me. Plus, I love to travel, and I want to understand the significance of what I see. Finally, I’ve just gotten bored with most fiction. Compared to actual events, the plot arcs in most trade fiction are predictable–some notable exceptions, obviously, but whatever paperback you’re likely to grab on the concourse before your flight, well, you can probably guess the killer’s identity already.

You finished the initial challenge in 2013: now what?

Watch for some format changes. Now that I don’t have to keep count of the books I’ve read, my blog titles to begin to include some hint at the topic to be covered. Continent still will show up, like always. Also, I’m looking into other ways to provide other kinds of content (e.g., PDFs) related to my book reviews pertinent to book clubs or classrooms–suggestions here are welcome!

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