We are well into August and moving quickly toward Labor Day, which for many of us signals the end of summer.
Yes, I know that does not happen astronomically until Sept. 22, but who cares, as life's routines trump Mother Nature.
When I was growing up in New England, the idea that Labor Day signaled the end of summer was much more pronounced. School always started on the Wednesday after Labor Day and soon fall weather arrived with a vengeance.
Not so in this part of the country where school has already been in session for a couple of weeks by Labor Day, and we can look forward to some of the best weather nature has to offer. But I digress…
No matter what part of the country you inhabit, for most of us, Labor Day brings with it the end of whatever leisure time we may have been fortunate to have over the summer – for just relaxing, traveling, or reading.
So for my August column, let me recommend a book with which to end the summer, that may well prove entertaining for anyone interested in the fascinating tidbits of history.
Let me preface my recommendation with a bit of a cautionary note that I, as a historian, feel compelled to make.
Books such as Seymour Morris's American History Revised (Broadway Books) are very entertaining.
I thoroughly enjoy them.
But whenever such a book appears, publishers seem compelled to "sell" the book as including "startling facts that never made it into the textbooks."
OK, fair enough. Although the easy answer is, of course, just where does Morris think we can put the nearly 400 pages of "startling facts" in our already bulging history textbooks.
But further, the implication is that these "startling facts" have been left out of our textbooks for some nefarious reason.
As the publisher notes for this book: "Morris digs deep into our past to expose and elucidate surprising truths about little-known individuals and events that played remarkably influential roles in the great American story."
I assure you that the absence of these "startling facts" portends nothing nefarious on the part of us historians.
But that does not take the fascination out of such topics as: "Four presidential elections have been decided by a single vote."
"Our missile defense system was invented by a Hollywood sex goddess."
"The #1 bestselling American book of all time was written in one day."
"Abraham Lincoln's son, a corporate tycoon, was racist."
"The Dutch made a bad investment buying Manhattan for $24."
"A recording given away in an adult magazine called Gallery solved the Kennedy assassination controversy."
Page 2 of 2 - This book is a good read.
Enjoy it during the waning days of summer.
Bryan Le Beau is an historian and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan.