I wasn’t feeling well today and took the opportunity after a few errands to have a good long lay down.
I curled up with one of my favorite books and I set aside my more programmed reading to indulge in a genre that for me is particularly comforting.
There is a group of historians I am especially fond of. These are Emil Ludwig, Ernle Bradford, Howard Lamb, Otto Friedrich and especially Hendrik Van Loon. None of these are detail nuts and bolts guys and all of them are big-picture generalists who make the big leaps and ask the big questions. All of them are experts in telling a story and weaving the soaring drama, tragedy, triumph and comedy of History. One newcomer in this group is Eleanor Herman who I have mentioned often, and she is still alive, the others longs since passed on. Hendrik Van Loon remains my favorite, the author of dozens of books including the masterful “Story of Mankind” and his “omage” to Plutarch in Van Loons lives. He also wrote a book on geography the history of science and technology, The discovery of America, the Arts, toleration, and many other subjects. All of the wonderful easy reads which peg out the highlights and the big picture. His style is a bit idiosyncratic and his sometimes very long sentences are a bit comical but always enlightening and he gets his point across.
All of them leave you under no doubt of the importance of history and that there is always cause for hope and optimism. They are writers who provide stories that argue solidly AGAINST the view that life is nothing more than a puff of warm air above a vast, cold, dark, unfriendly, lifeless sea.
And that is the merit of it. In spite of the dreadful role of the historian, which is often to be the coroner of the crimes of humanity, from out of these pages comes an optimism and hopefulness, that life, even in the harshest and most dreadful of times, is still worth living, and that the good that even a few men do more than counteracts the evil that many do,