Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book Review--In Tall Cotton

Harwell, Richard Barksdale. In Tall Cotton: The 200 Most Important Confederate Books for the Reader, Researcher and Collector. Broadfoot Publising Company, Wilmington, NC. 2006. Limited edition of 1050. 82 pages.

Just about every where you turn there is a list of "must reads", "top titles", etc. The Civil War is not different. While most of these lists have some level of value most don't seem to stand the test of time. In Tall Cotton is different in that it has stood the test of time for over 30 years and itself has become a collectible and expensive book. The reprint version, while not cheap, is an important addition to any Civil War book collection.

While certainly not a book to be read in the traditional sense (what bibliography is?) this is a book that can easily be purused in a couple of hours. Set up alphabetically by author it is easy to see if your favorites are here. I'll let you guess what book Harwell feels is the top must read book but suffice to say it will be easy to figure out. Most authors only have one book included but there are several with multiples including Harwell himself (he wrote it so why not include himself) with three listings, Bell Irvin Wiley with four titles, and one of the deans of Civil War writing Douglas Southall Freeman also with four titles. Of course Freeman really has 9 books if you count Lee's Lieutenants as three and then R.E.Lee as four.

For each title Harwell gives bibliographical information and then a brief description. He finishes up with cross references to other well known bibliographies the book may be listed in. A few of these include Civil War Books by Allan Nevins, et. al. , Harwell's own Confederate Hundred, Freeman's The South to Posterity and others.

It's unlikely you will want to read everything on the list. It includes everything from first hand accounts to poetry, to biographies, to fiction but there will no doubt be books that pique your interest. While most of the books listed are older many have new printings that include better editing and new introductions. For me I really like listings like this and can always find value in them. I think you will be able to as well and I recommend this book highly.

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