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HIST 121: America History to 1877 (Spring 2023)

Assessing a Book

Look at this book I found in the library catalog, the best place to find books and ebooks for history.

Questions to consider:

  • What is the Topic?
  • What is the Argument?
  • What are the sources?
  • How does it challenge existing publications on the topic?
  • Who is the author?
  • Where & when was this published?

NOTE: It's harder to limit your search to "peer reviewed only" for books. Pay particular attention to the publisher & author when deciding whether to use a specific book.


Again, books can be summarized in a similar fashion as an article, though it may take more detail due to the size and scope of a book.

In the Title (year), Author studies Topic, arguing Thesis. Using Sources/methodologyAuthor challenges existing literature by unique aspect of work.

 In Wartime: understanding and behavior in the Second World War (1989), Paul Fussell studies the day-to-day experiences of British and American solders during WW2, with particular attention given to topics traditionally regarded as negative: soldiers' excessive use of smoking and alcohol, sex and prostitution, the spread of propaganda, cursing, and the unreadiness and general terror of wartime experience. Fussell argues that exploring these previously taboo aspects of soldier life provides a nuanced understanding of the soldiers' experience, and offers more insight into the cultural impact and lasting memories of the war. The approach of the work reflects Fussell's expertise as a literary historian, and the work is heavily influenced by his seminal previous works that study the cultural history and memory of the First World War.


In the case of this book, Fussell's background is extremely important in understanding the approach & aim of the work. His The Great War and Modern Memory is so famous it even has it's own wikipedia article