November 24, 2009
From This Week at the Library, a weekly blog reviewing books found at the reviewer’s local library, on The Zinn Reader:
The Zinn Reader is one man’s commentary on his and the United States’ history and development. Zinn is a character in a larger story, responding to the historical events that unfold around him. Zinn is very much involved with history: for him, the idea that the historian is and must be neutral is wrong, fallacious even. Historians, and scholars in general, have the right and duty as human beings to respond to what is happening in their world — to champion the causes they see as righteous and to attack with fervency what injustice and lies they can. He doesn’t write simply on the major events of his life — World War 2, the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam — but on the minor parts as well (Boston University’s “battleground” role during the rise of the student left) – -and on the whole scope of American history, from Columbus to the Gilded Age and beyond.
The highest praise I can give to any book is that it added depth to my life in making me think: Zinn addresses questions of mine in regards to civil disobedience (when is it “right”, namely), and makes me examine old ideas and new ones alike. The book swept me away, and I imagine it will be holding sway over my mind for a good long while, in the manner of Neil Postman. I don’t know if I’ll read anything more memorable this year — I doubt I could. I recommend this to you utterly.
Take a look at the book, now in an updated and expanded second edition, or at Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s new Voices of a People’s History, 2nd Edition, the sourcebook for the HISTORY documentary The People Speak.